The vote must go on

COVID-19 raises challenges for voters and candidates

ELECTED OFFICIALS MAY be mindful of the coronavirus pandemic, but the horse race always continues in an emergency, one way or the other.

Stephanie Murray at Politico reported on newly-released campaign finance reports from the beginning of the year through March 31, and says Rep. Joe Kennedy III holds a financial advantage over Sen. Ed Markey in their primary contest.

Kennedy has $6.2 million in cash on hand, raising close to $2 million and spending around $1.3 million in that time period. Markey has $4.4 million in cash on hand, after spending $1.3 million and bringing in $1.2 million, according to his FEC filing.

Both candidates, with traditional campaigning on hold, are holding constant livestreams. For Markey, his latest featured Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi talking about a recovery home for frontline workers diagnosed with COVID-19 and other issues the sheriff is facing during the pandemic. Kennedy has held virtual town halls with state rep and Boston Medical Center doctor Jon Santiago, famed Chef José Andres, and others about the impacts of the crisis on frontline medical workers and the restaurant industry.

Kennedy’s campaign announced Thursday that it used his email list to raise $30,000 for organizations assisting Chelsea, a hotspot with many coronavirus cases.

But Election Day is always on everyone’s collective mind. On Thursday, US Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Jim McGovern, Katherine Clark, and Kennedy urged the Legislature to pass a vote-by-mail bill for the 2020 election, and for $4 billion in federal funding to increase voting by mail and election security nationwide.

Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Stone Creem proposed a bill that would enable any Massachusetts voter to request a mail-in absentee ballot for both the state primary and general election in 2020, as well as allow early voting in the September primary.

State Sen. Becca Rausch and state Rep. Adrian Madaro have filed a bill that would send every registered voter a ballot by mail with a prepaid return envelope for both the primary and the general election.

Without these type of measures, Kennedy said, the nation could see the “widespread impact of voter suppression.”

Candidate suppression may also be a problem, largely because some campaigns, including Markey’s, are finding it difficult and some say nearly impossible to gather the required number of voter signatures to appear on the ballot at a time when everyone is holed up in their homes and practicing social distancing.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

The Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments on Thursday from lawyers representing three officials running for office who believe the court should reduce or eliminate the signature requirements for running for office. The court seemed receptive, but wary of stepping on the toes of state lawmakers who are also grappling with the issue.

The legislative picture is unclear. The Senate voted to lower signature requirements for candidates in certain races, but the bill’s fate in the House is far from certain. A single member can block consideration of the bill as the Legislature tries to take action in informal sessions where only a handful of members show up. Gov. Charlie Baker has indicated he would support reducing the signature requirements for various offices.

“Time is running short and we’re prepared to act promptly, but we’d be quite happy if the Legislature were to take this away from us,” Chief Justice Ralph Gants said.