(The following was originally published on the Green Party website.)
State election officials have rejected all 3000 voter signatures collected by Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jason Lowenthal who is running for Congress against Democratic incumbent Michael Capuano in the 7th Congressional District of Massachusetts. This clears the way for Capuano to run unopposed for a seventh term.
Lowenthal had assumed that the 3000 voter signatures he had collected would be more than enough to put his name on the November ballot since only 2000 certified signatures were required. But when he tried to turn in his signatures, town clerks, after consultation with state officials, told him that the signatures were invalid since they were on white forms intended for use by the two recognized major parties – Democrats and Republicans. If he had only used the tan forms intended for use by smaller parties, they said, all the signatures would have been acceptable.
Lowenthal has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin seeking an order to place his name on the ballot. In the brief to Suffolk Superior Court, Lowenthal claims that election officials misled him regarding the forms to be used, and that rejection of the signatures constitutes a violation of the intent of state election law.
According to Lowenthal’s lawsuit, the white signature collection forms were given to him by state officials who said they were the proper ones for him to use. When he pointed out that the forms had fine print that mentioned deadlines for Democratic and Republican primaries, election officials replied that the white forms were required for federal races. In actuality, there are separate tan-colored signature forms are intended for both federal and state level races when the candidate is not a member of the two state-recognized political parties.
According to Lowenthal’s lawsuit, the rejection of the signatures constitutes a violation of the rights of the 3000 signers who have the right under state law to place candidates on the ballot by signing nomination papers. Lowenthal is invoking the legal principle that executive agencies are not allowed to impose regulations that frustrate the intent of laws passed by the legislature.
John Andrews, co-chair of the Green-Rainbow Party commented that “the Lowenthal case is an example of the type of thing that discourages newcomers from challenging entrenched political forces. In Massachusetts, our entire Congressional delegation is Democratic and incumbents often run unopposed. In the state legislature, over 60 percent of incumbents run unopposed year after year. The difficulty of just getting your name on the ballot discourages challengers. And when all the work a candidate does to demonstrate voter support is tossed aside by a technicality, it contributes to the sense that the seats of big party office holders are being protected from competition.”
Danny Factor, Green-Rainbow candidate for Secretary of the Commonwealth added that “the number of unopposed races in Massachusetts is disgraceful. We go to great lengths to protect the right to vote. But when you go into the voting booth and find only one name on the ballot, the value of your vote has been stolen. The lack of competition contributes to a sense of entitlement on the part of office holders. We must reform ballot access laws so that at least 95% of the races in Massachusetts are contested. This will give voters the power they should have to hold incumbents accountable.”