(Disclosure: I am a volunteer on John Bonifaz’s campaign)
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has a What’s New page. If you go there now, you’ll see five recent enforcement actions listed; one of those five is the consent decree signed with the City of Boston last year. The Civil Rights Division went to court only three times in 2005 for violations of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and brought only five cases under the minority language provision. Of a total of seven cases under the Voting Rights Act in 2005, Boston’s was the only one that fell in both categories. Boston joined a handful of jurisdictions in the country where the conduct of elections is monitored by Federal observers.
Regular readers of Blue Mass Group are probably aware of a myriad of voting rights problems in the City of Boston. For example:
- On the elections division web site, you can download “the state representative districts set forth in the remedial plan approved on April 16, 2004, by the United States District Court in the case of Black Political Task Force, et al v. William Francis Galvin, C.A. #02-11190-DPW, as being in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution.”
- Almost exactly a year ago, Blue Mass Group covered voter challenges in Allston in the 18th Suffolk Special election – something the state’s elections division never stepped in to address, as far as I am aware.
I have my own story of poor election practices by Boston, which changed the result of a Democratic State Committee election in 2004 by not counting write-in votes at all.
But in case you think this is limited to just one city, the DoJ case points to problems throughout our state. This Sunday, the Boston Globe published a story about a Justice Department voting rights investigation in Lowell, concerning poor accomodation of linguistic minorities. This is the same issue the DoJ sued Boston for, and it’s also what they’re already investigating in Springfield – where, according to a nonpartisan survey, “nearly one in 10 eligible voters could not vote on his or her first attempt” in 2004. And then there’s that mess in Lawrence, which is reportedly also getting Federal attention. As the Globe reported,
Last fall, the Justice Department announced it would send federal observers to monitor the November elections in Boston, Lowell, and 14 other communities across the country.
So out of 16 “communities across the country” they’re sending federal observers to this November, two are in Massachusetts. What’s happening to elections in our state??
John Bonifaz, running for Secretary of the Commonwealth against incumbent William Galvin, noted Galvin’s pattern of saying he’s “not aware” of voting rights problems until after the DoJ gets involved. “It remains bewildering to me how the secretary of state’s office seems unaware of these investigations,” said Bonifaz. “I don’t think we should have to rely upon the Bush Justice Department to enforce the Voting Rights Act in Massachusetts. I think we should have a secretary of state who is being proactive and ensuring that the Voting Rights Act is being enforced around Massachusetts.”
The Globe article led to a small flurry of blog posts in the past couple of days, including David Swanson on dailykos (DOJ Confirms Voting Rights Violations in Massachusetts) and a post on Democratic Underground titled, Why John Bonifaz Needs to be Secretary of State for Massachusetts. But these are national blogs. Here in Massachusetts, the issue is getting scant attention. It’s well past time for us to start asking, where is our Elections Division? Why must the state of Massachusetts rely on the Bush Justice Department to protect our voting rights?
P.S. If you think this issue is worthy of attention, please recommend this post on dailykos)