Two news events in the past week make clear the importance of bringing new ideas and a new approach to the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding the “radio silence” about the race among most members of the media. First, there is no doubt that behind L’Affaire Loscocco, and the continued calls from pundits and politicians alike for both Tim Cahill and Jill Stein to drop out of the gubernatorial campaign, is the concern for the “spoiler” effect, that somehow votes are being stolen away from the dominant party candidates. But this belies the fact that, in the face of catcalls and negative advertising, thousands of Massachusetts voters still believe in the messages put forth by the non-mainstream candidates. The voices of these voters should not be functionally silenced, even though our election system creates the perverse incentive to do just that.
Second, Suffolk University Law School last week released the results of a September poll, which found that (1) 70% of Massachusetts voters “believe that public access to government is critical to the functioning of good government”, but (2) 57% of the voters believe that Massachusetts government is secretive in nature. This is easy to understand when requests for public records can often be costly and time consuming, when electronically-collected state ethics information is not accessible online, which is the case in 29 other states (see Boston Globe, page B1, August 14, 2010), and when requests for e-mails are made, the response is often to print out page after page, rather than simply copy them to disk. In essence, our almost 40-year-old public records law is not working to break down the barriers to easy and inexpensive access to public information.
As Secretary, I want to tackle both of these problems, to make sure that we are engaging the people of Massachusetts in their government, and not erecting (or maintaining) barriers that hold them at bay. I will actively work with the legislature to update the public records law, to truly recognize the existence of electronic records and our expectations of their availability. But more crucial is the adoption of the “open data” model as part of an updated public records law, as that will go a long way to reducing the sense of secrecy. Likewise, I will honor the voices of all voters in Massachusetts, including the majority who identify themselves as independents, by advocating for ranked choice (or instant runoff) voting. Voter turnout in statewide elections continues to be unacceptably low (our most recent primary had only 17% turnout), so we must work to reform our election system so that voters can feel they have something to vote for, instead of simply being left with the Hobson’s choice of voting against a particular candidate. I will improve upon our rather imperfect status quo. Please visit my website to get involved in my campaign and help me bring these innovations to the office of the Secretary.