DOJ Confirms Voting Rights Violations in Massachusetts

By David Swanson

The race for Massachusetts Secretary of State has reached a new level of urgency. On March 10, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) confirmed it is investigating Voting Rights violations in Springfield. Today, the DOJ confirmed that they are actively investigating Voting Rights violations in Lowell as well. In each city, the lack of voting assistance to Latino and Cambodian Americans, respectively, is at the center of the probes. But it doesn’t end there.

In 2005, the City of Lawrence sent letters to 15,000 mostly Latino voters declaring that they were on the inactive list just days before Election Day. Despite a federal judge demanding that the city reach out to these voters and inform them that they could still vote, Lawrence had its lowest turnout for a mayoral election in Lawrence in 30 years — and this in a contested race with a Latino challenger.

Earlier the same year, the DOJ sued the City of Boston for Voting Rights violations against Chinese, Latino and Vietnamese voters. Boston entered into a consent decree with the DOJ as a result and has agreed to provide ballots and other voter information in multiple languages, including Chinese and Vietnamese. The DOJ will also continue to monitor elections in the state’s capital for the next few years.

These problems, as well as the lack of any true electoral reforms in the Commonwealth that promote our democracy, are just some of the reasons that John Bonifaz was the first person to step forward last year and officially declare his candidacy for Secretary of State. Massachusetts needs a Secretary who will work with cities and towns to ensure the voting rights of all voters before anything ever gets to the point where Federal intervention would be required.

Each time Bonifaz has raised the issue of these investigations in the past, Secretary of State of William Galvin has accused his challenger of making up these claims, while also admitting that he was unaware of any such investigations. Bonifaz’s statements have now been supported by the DOJ itself.

Galvin’s lack of awareness speaks volumes about his negligence as the state’s Chief Elections Officer. Bonifaz, meanwhile, brought these investigations into public discourse before the media jumped on the bandwagon this month. And has issued promises of what he’d do as Secretary of State.

Given all of these recent developments, add Secretary of State to the list of races that need to remain in the spotlight between now and November. After all, these voting rights issues impact every other candidate running for office in what is already a busy election season.