AP is reporting that the Massachusetts Democratic Party is considering a rule change that would make it harder for candidates for statewide office to get on the primary ballot. Under current party rules, which are bad enough, a candidate must receive the votes of 15% of the delegates to the state convention. The rule change would require that a candidate reach the 15% threshold on the first ballot.
This strikes me as a terrible idea. The convention is a party insider’s paradise – most ordinary voters (and I include myself in that category) don’t have a clue what it is, where it is, when it is, what happens there, or – critically – who goes to it. So the 15% rule is a way of ensuring that candidates on the ballot have the support of a "critical mass" of party insiders. Tightening that rule will only make it harder for "outsider" candidates to compete, and will thereby shut out more voices who want to shake the party out of its "business as usual" mindset.
Secretary of State (and possible gubernatorial candidate) Bill Galvin, to his credit, is speaking out against this rule change, aptly describing it as a "power grab." Let’s hear from AG and all-but-declared Gov candidate Tom Reilly too – are you for an open process, Tom, or do you want the hacks to hand you the nomination without a contest?
You can contact the party here and urge them not to adopt this change. Tell them you want an open primary process that doesn’t depend on lining up insider support before the convention.
Bad hacks! Bad!
UPDATE (3/10/05): The party has unanimously adopted these lousy changes (big surprise). Not only will it now be tougher to satisfy the 15% rule, but the number of delegates to the convention will be substantially reduced, with the bulk of the cut coming out of delegates elected at local caucuses – i.e., the people on the ground doing the real work, the local activists, the non-party-insiders (elected officials and well-connected hackocrats will still be going).