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.
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.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.