Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My Interview With Bonifaz

I just got off the phone with Secretary of State candidate John Bonifaz. I asked him all sorts of questions - ranging from tough questions leftyblogger critics have rhetorically posed to questions I was genuinely curious about. However, before I get to my interview, I'd like to mention this important fact: John Bonifaz did everything in this race with one phone call that Secretary of State Bill Galvin has shown an absolute disdain for during the whole campaign. John Bonifaz reached out to a voter and continually made his case for why he should be elected, Bill Galvin won't even show up to a debate.

I say "continually" because Bonifaz literally had to call me three times because there's almost no reception at UMASS Dartmouth, my cell phone kept losing signal. In planning this interview, I received at least 10 emails from Bonifaz's campaign manager. Furthermore, both of them have read my some of my blogs and each thanked me for a different one.

How many other politicians would have done that? When it was clear my cell phone was not going to work, I was resigned to the fact that I'd probably be lucky to get some questions answered in an email. Instead, Bonifaz gave me the time to switch phones and get on a landline - this while Bill Galvin won't even submit to a debate.

If I knew nothing about the campaign and hadn't already endorsed Bonifaz, I would have known to vote for Bonifaz by the time I picked up the phone. What it all comes down to is this: if we want the government to have as its chief interest group people, then we need to elect politicians who communicate with people. John Bonifaz is communicating with Massachusetts residents, Bill Galvin won't even show up to a public debate.

Now, to the questions.

Early critics of Bonifaz on leftyblogs - such as Massmarrier and Lynne - questioned whether Bonifaz should really be running for Secretary of State, as opposed to the State Senate. It was a rational I bought into earlier, until I realized I was very, very wrong. Massmarrier has since switched sides and endorsed Bonifaz and it seems like Lynne is coming around.

1. Some people, even in the blogosphere, have suggested you'd be better off running for the State House or Senate - that you'd be better able to enact changes from the legislative branch. How could you directly impact your issues from the office of Secretary of State?

According to Bonifaz, a lot of the issues he advocates for is specifically related to office of Secretary of State. In fact, his answer left no doubt that there's little to the belief that he can't directly impact electoral reform from office, much more so than as a state legislator. Why? "We shouldn't rely on the Bush Justice Department to enforce the law." The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed in 2002, a bill Galvin "is supposed to implement." However, in four years Galvin hasn't ever started the planning phases. What's the fallout? Citizens in Springfield and Boston sued - and won - the monitors that were promised in HAVA, while Galvin fought against them.

In fact, Galvin fighting against little-d Democracy was a common theme in the interview. Bonifaz talked about how Galvin ignored a mandate of his office by completely ignoring a new type of voting technology, called Votepad, which provides "equal, if not greater, access" than DIEBOLD to handicapped voters. It was more efficient, cheaper and already in use in several states - not to mention the technology came from "local creators." Bonifaz "would never consider DIEBOLD," especially after having experience in Ohio.

So... Galvin ignores local technology that's proven itself to be safe and reliable, violating a mandate, while he's currently "considering three" types of technology - including DIEBOLD - for Massachusetts. I'd be shocked that he's considering new technology at all, but at some point Galvin's going to have to comply with HAVA. There are only so many cities and towns in Massachusetts to lose to in court.

Finally, Bonifaz addressed critics head on. While some of his proposals may need to be enacted through the State Legislature, the legislature looks to the Secretary of State for guidance. Bonifaz said that when the Legislature was considering enacting Same-Day Voter Registration, Galvin "worked with Republicans" to make sure it didn't happen.

Picture from Bluemassgroup

I thought it was interesting that Galvin didn't want Same-Day Registration, doesn't go to debates, didn't want election monitors and emphatically claims there's going to be a dismally low voter turnout - almost as if Galvin wanted the low turnout. So I asked a follow-up; it went something like this:

2. Why does Galvin not seem interested in enacting policies that increase voter turnout?

"He's a machine politician," he's "more focused on protecting the status-quo than reaching out and expanding" election day services. In fact, Bonifaz didn't seem to think Galvin was all that into his Secretary of State position - he "looks at the office as a basis for broadening" his machine.

Galvin's amassed 1.8 million in the bank and was openly considering a run for Governor not too long ago, yet decided to run for reelection instead - too many debates.
I don't think the position should be seen as a stepping stone or a fall back [position].

With Bonifaz, you know there are no alterior motives. He's been working on voting rights for years; now, he's just looking at a new way to tackle the problem. Isn't it easier to fix the problem at the source than trying for years to get the most basic voter rights through long and costly court battles?

Bonifaz wants a Secretary of State who will respond to voters and protect their rights, he wants to "defend voters, instead of attack" them - like Blackwell and Harris did in Ohio and Florida. The sad thing is Bill Galvin can be added to that list after his clear disregard for Democracy in Lowell, Springfield, Boston and other cities regarding HAVA.

3. Why do you think Bill Galvin is so afraid to debate you?

He's "unwilling to engage in answering questions - difficult ones he doesn't have answers for." Galvin thinks he's "entitled" to the job, "it's an insult to the voters, complete disrespect to the institution of Democracy."

Bonifaz thinks that debates are critical, "Secretary Galvin is not fit for this office if he doesn't engage in candidate debates."

The interesting thing here is while some may be willing to forgive Galvin for his disregard of Democracy if he does belatedly debate Bonifaz, Bonifaz think Galvin "has already flunked." I'm inclined to agree. Bonifaz still "welcomes [Galvin] to debates," but it's too late for Galvin to completely save face for his utter disregard.

4. Addressing specific issues, I asked Galvin about Killer Coke, the fraud surrounding the anti-SSM amendment, etc.

On Killer Coke, Bonifaz would be "vigorous in enforcing campaign finance law," because there are "still remaining questions." Specifically, "seeing if it was linked" to campaigns. However, Bonifaz was "happy" that the issue is currently being investigated by the OCPF and "wouldn't interfere" with their review.

I was much more interested with the fraud surrounding the proposal to amend the constitution - and his answer impressed me, maybe more than any other. Bonifaz wrote an Op-Ed-Ed to the Boston Globe, "highlighting how" he "didn't think signatures should have been [automatically] certified." Bonifaz says the state "owes it to the voters not to have this initiative... move forward under this clowd."

At minimum, Galvin should have "investigated how many signatures were valid." When asked how Bonifaz would have handled the situation, he addressed one easy way to do it. Since one of the major fraudulent tactics was to get voters to sign a petition to sell alcohol in grocery stores, then have them sign a 'back-up' copy, Bonifaz would have seen what signatures were duplicates and then sent them all mail to see if they really signed.

After the OF-ED, Galvin responding - he "found 14,000 matches." Again, that was his response. He didn't actually do anything about it though - and Bonifaz didn't seem pleased, "why would you certify those 14,000 signatures" without the proper knowledge. While Bonifaz was mildly concerned that - with that level of fraud - there may have not been enough signatures, he was more worried about "protect[ing] individual voters."

Bonifaz made an interesting point - when I mentioned that lots of voters who found out they were falsely added to the signature total and thought it was incredulous - that he thought it could be a "freedom of association rights violation." He said it was "a name attached to something" lots of people would never agree to - sort of the opposite of free speech. Bonifaz said if he had more time, he'd have brought it to court.

Bonifaz was so concerned about this issue, he checked the list of people who signed it himself. A colleague, Barb Dugan, was "testifying at a press conference" on the issue. She only signed one ballot question - on greyhounds - and later found out her name was added to the anti-gay marriage amendment. Bonifaz had signed the same ballot question, but luckily wasn't falsely added to the list.

5. Bonifaz's Final Say

I gave Bonifaz a chance to have a final say, something he's never enjoyed with Bill Galvin in the room. Bill Galvin is "a machine politician and demonstratably has refused to debate." He's "not interested in what voters think, more interested in his power."

Bonifaz will "stand up and fight for ordinary voters and citizens."

Sounds good to me; support John Bonifaz, the one who actually cares about democracy and its participants - us.


Cos said...

Vote-PAD is an ingenious thing: disabied-accessible voting without computers! It complies with HAVA's requirements, and beyond, and is still basically a hand marked paper ballot, which can then be counted either by hand or by computer.

For the numerous low population hand-count towns in Massachusetts it would be a major savings, especially compared to what it costs to maintain and reprogram computer voting machines for every election.

For all of us, it would allow us to expand disability access, comply with the law, and maintain the confidence that comes with sticking to hand marked paper ballots.

The Vote-PAD people tried to get our state elections division to adopt it, but so far, they don't seem to have made a lot of progress.

Check our their web site, http://vote-pad.us/

Ryan Adams said...

very cool, i'm sold.

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