LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Fair Nominations at Stake Due to COVID-19 Health Advisory

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Kathy Lynch. COURTESY PHOTO

At the end of this month, candidates for elective political office will be required to submit nomination papers to the Secretary of State in order to be on the Sept. 1, 2020 ballot. By April 28, candidates for state office, and by May 5, candidates for federal office are required to hand in the qualifying number of signatures.

Collecting signatures has been very difficult to accomplish during the COVID-19 outbreak because the governor’s order urges “all residents to limit activities outside of the home and to practice social distancing at all times to limit the spread” of the virus. Many residents are afraid of spreading germs through the transfer of items such as pens and papers that are needed for signing nomination sheets.

There are two bills pending in the Massachusetts Legislature. State Representative Patrick Kearney (D) filed Bill HD4981. This bill would waive two-thirds of the signature requirements for the nominations of candidates for any state election office. State Rep. William Smitty (D) filed Bill HD5011 to lower the number of required signatures for U.S. senator from 10,000 to 7,500 and for representative in Congress, from 2,000 to 1,500. Both bills would be temporary measures, expiring after the 2020 elections.

To pass, bills HD4981 and HD5011 would require unanimous consent by the legislature. Passage would relieve candidates of added stress, pressure, time and money to collect the number of signatures required to get on the ballot. Passage would ensure the fairness and continuity of our state elections for this Fall.  These are reasonable accommodations given the extreme social circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I call on our legislators to take action and pass these bills with speed. Failure to take fair and equitable action to adjust the nomination processes for our elections, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, could be viewed as a plausible attempt to exploit this crisis for the advantage of incumbent legislators. Legislators who currently hold office, and in doing so, have garnered larger numbers of supporters, could be seen as trying to give themselves advantage by preventing other candidates from challenging them.

Please take five minutes to contact your legislators to do the right thing, to serve the voters and allow an equitable, democratic election process, instead of serving themselves. For Westford, residents can reach state Sen. Ed Kennedy at (617) 722-1630 and state Rep. James Arciero at (617) 722-2012. — Kathleen Lynch, Westford resident and Republican State Committeewoman for the First Middlesex District.