An Urgent Moment
This is a critical moment. Voting rights are under attack across the country and, in Massachusetts, there’s urgent work that needs to be done to build a stronger, more vibrant and more expansive democracy for all.
Massachusetts can and should be a beacon in the fight to protect and expand voting rights, make government more accessible, and increase economic opportunity– but right now, we lag behind many other states in New England and around the country on some basic and badly needed reforms.
Same day voter registration was first adopted in Maine in 1973. A half century later, 21 states and Washington DC have implemented the practice, this includes all of our sister New England states.
Massachusetts is behind.
Vote by mail is available to voters in 30 states across the country, including Georgia, Florida and Arizona. Massachusetts voters have been denied this opportunity. It literally took a global pandemic to get any traction on the issue.
Massachusetts is behind.
The impact is real for communities of color, working class communities, young people, and many others who are being left out and left behind by our lack of progress.
It is time for a change.
The status quo is not working. We need a Secretary of State who can bring next generation democracy to the Commonwealth. We need a fresh perspective, a Secretary who will leverage data, provide inclusive leadership, and offer a courageous vision for harnessing the full potential of the office to address the challenges facing democracy today.
We need a Chief Democracy Officer.
Next Generation Democracy
Democracy cannot thrive without the engagement of all its citizens. At the heart of this engagement is voting. Today, too many in Massachusetts face obstacles to casting their ballots or, worse, believe even if they do vote, it won’t matter. The Secretary of the Commonwealth can, and must, take actions that tear down barriers to voting and help citizens understand the very real power of their ballot to shape our collective future. In the 2020 Presidential election, just under two-thirds of Massachusetts citizens who were eligible to cast a ballot did so. Some who chose not to vote were registered with their city or town, many others had not even taken that step. We can make registering and casting a ballot easier and voter education more accessible, ensuring that every voice in our Commonwealth has the opportunity to be heard.
But that is not enough. The administrative function is part of the foundation, but a strong democracy requires more. Democracy is an action word.
We need a Secretary who will roll up their sleeves to do the tough work needed to increase voter participation, especially in our Gateway Cities and other communities where our voter participation rates consistently lag behind the state average. This is the work of a Chief Democracy Officer.
As the birthplace of our democracy, Massachusetts must lead the nation in protecting and advancing voting rights and ballot access. If Massachusetts is unable to lead on these issues, with the Democractic political control and deep community resources we have, it makes it more challenging to advance voting rights in Republican led states.
We must develop and implement policy solutions and initiatives to address the deep voter participation gaps that exist across Massachusetts.
Democracy is rooted in the fundamental right to vote. A strong democracy has empowered communities and engaged people. It requires active engagement between the Secretary of State’s office and our communities to build relationships and foster trust in our system.
American democracy is grounded in a belief that government should not happen to the people…government happens with and through the people. The Secretary of State’s office must be a vocal champion of this aspiration.
We must actively engage the vast cybersecurity leadership and expertise in our region to ensure we are leading in the advancement of election security.
Transparent and Accountable Government
The public must have access to information about how our government is working in order to hold elected officials accountable and help ensure we all have the ability to participate in our government.
Massachusetts is experiencing a public information crisis.
This has a real impact on our communities– from renters trying to find out how often their landlord has been cited for violations of the housing code, to car owners looking for the identity of reckless snow plow operators, to workers who are victims of wage theft. Each of these issues (and so many more) matter deeply to families across Massachusetts. Ensuring the public has timely access to public records is a critical check and balance in our democracy.
We need a Secretary of State who is unwavering in shining a light on our public records and ensuring that all of us have the opportunity to participate in important public policy decisions. An inclusive democracy demands no less.
The activities of our public institutions is public information. Public information and records must be available to the public in a timely manner at limited or no cost.
Access to public records should be limited in the narrowest of circumstances, ie: personal privacy and public safety.
We need to move our public records into the 21st century by digitizing as many as possible in order to make them accessible to the public.
The Secretary of State must be actively engaged with communities and serve as a gateway between the people and our government to help ensure we all have access to the information we need and the supports to know how to use the information.
I envision the Secretary serving as the Chief Opportunity Officer for the Commonwealth. Despite our reputation as a progressive, democratic state, Massachusetts ranks 7th of the 50 states in income inequality, according to the Federal Reserve. The average income among the top 20% of households is $299,188, accounting for 50.9% of all income earned in Massachusetts. The average income among the bottom 20% of households by earnings is just $16,450, or just 2.8% of all earnings statewide. These two numbers demonstrate just how great economic inequality is across the Commonwealth. The Secretary of State has the power to make meaningful changes toward closing the wealth gap experienced by far too many Massachusetts families.
Massachusetts is the most expensive state in the country to register a business. Small businesses bear the brunt of this cost. They were among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for the health of our communities, they are the businesses we need to recover quickly.
Economic opportunity is so vital to a strong democracy and vibrant communities, that every government institution should aggressively work to reduce economic inequality and close the racial wealth gap in Massachusetts.
We need to actively support our micro-main street, small business community in Massachusetts to help ensure they can thrive.
As the head of the Corporations Division, the Secretary of State should prioritize fostering business partnerships across the Commonwealth as a means of increasing economic prosperity.