Foe Tries to Put the Heat on Secretary Galvin but the Sparks Seem Absent

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin had the task of selecting a date for the statewide primary elections to be held this fall.

By law, Galvin had to schedule the primary within seven days of the second Tuesday of September, which falls this year on September 11.  He thus had to choose a date within the fourteen-day span beginning on Tuesday, September 4, and ending on Tuesday, September 18.
By longstanding practice, our Secretaries of State aim to hold a statewide primary 49 days before the final election in November, which is always scheduled on the first Tuesday of the month.  The first Tuesday this year is on November 6.  If you count back 49 days from November 6, you get to September 18.

September 18 this year was deemed infeasible by Galvin because the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur will be observed that day.  Likewise, Galvin ruled out September 11 because of the observance of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
That left only one possible Tuesday within the allowable two-weeks: September 4, the day after Labor Day this year.

Galvin settled on September 4 after a formal public comment period and after consulting with Robert DeLeo, Speaker of the House, and Harriette Chandler, Acting President of the Senate.  When announcing the primary date, Galvin proposed that the state institute a five-day early-voting period before September 4, and that the legislature make allocations to every city and town to cover the costs of early voting.
A former member of the Massachusetts House, Galvin was first elected Secretary of State in 1994. Many folks, myself included, consider him the single most knowledgeable person on election and securities laws – and on basically any matter pertaining to state government.  He’s a walking one-man governmental/political encyclopedia. 

Like anyone who’s been in office a long time, Galvin has his share of detractors.  But there’s no one who says he’s lost his stuff.   At age 67, his political fastball still flies low across the outside corner of the plate in the high 90s.
Boston District 8 City Councilor Josh Zakim, who will be a candidate against Galvin in the Democrat primary in September, harshly criticized his opponent’s scheduling decision.

“It is outrageous and unprecedented to schedule a statewide primary for the day after Labor Day, when people are just returning from their summer vacations and haven’t had time to focus on the upcoming election.  And scheduling an early voting period during the last week of August is equally ridiculous,” said Zakim, the son of Joyce and the late Lenny Zakim, who was the New England director of the Anti-Defamation League and the man for whom the I-93 Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge over the Charles River was named.
For good measure, Zakim asserted, “This is a brazen example of the Secretary trying to depress voter turnout.”

Candidates trying to make an issue out of something for attention and votes is like the sun coming up. Candidates have to try something.  On a scale of one to ten, I’d give Zakim’s try a two at best.
Come September, maybe we voters will be so distracted and so enervated by summer’s end that we’ll be incapable of cogitating on the primary election candidates. But I don’t think so.  And rather than considering as “ridiculous” the opportunity to vote early on any of the five working days leading up to the primary, I think many of us will see it a serious convenience.

I take a dim view of projects that would coddle voters in the hope of increasing turnout.  Voting is a privilege.  Voting is a responsibility, an obligation of citizenship.   Ask not what your Secretary of State can do for you.  Ask what you can do for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.    



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