I am running for Secretary of State because despite our progressive reputation, Massachusetts has fallen behind on the promise of democracy and access for all residents. We need to transform the way we approach politics in the Commonwealth by bringing more people into the process, and by lifting barriers instead of erecting new ones. We can make it easier for eligible residents to vote, to get access to the public records that they are entitled to and to more fully participate in our civic process.
This year, we have an opportunity to move forward on issues of access and accountability. We need to make sure that everyone across the Commonwealth will have their voices heard in the halls of power. We can, and must, embrace bold new ideas and innovative leadership to make Massachusetts the beacon of democracy that we should be.
There are obstacles to voting – both registration and access to the polls – that are surmountable, but have thus far been ignored. Public records remain difficult to view, despite technological advances that should make them available with the click of a mouse. Far too many people have fallen prey to investment scams, which need better oversight and policing.
Each of these falls under the purview of the Secretary of State. Bill Galvin, our current secretary who has served in the office for 24 years, is not fulfilling his responsibilities. After a quarter of a century, it is time for new and bold leadership.
Just last week, for example, Galvin scheduled this year’s state primary for the day after Labor Day. Aside from the fact that many people will just be getting back from vacation and not focusing on electoral politics, it is also the first day of school in many cities and towns. The primary hasn’t been scheduled on this day in the 124 years Labor Day has been recognized as a federal holiday for a reason. Why should it change this year? The only plausible explanation is to keep turnout low, a cynical maneuver that generally benefits the incumbent and the status quo.
But the status quo isn’t good enough, and hasn’t been for a long time. During Galvin’s tenure, primary voting turnout has dropped 30 percent from its peak in 2002 – resulting in nearly 300,000 fewer people going to the polls. That’s 300,000 fewer people having their voices heard.
That’s why the cornerstone of my campaign is increasing access to government for all Massachusetts residents. This means ensuring that every eligible person is able to register to vote and get to the polls. This means making sure that if you want to see any public record, you can do so quickly and, if there are costs associated with it, affordably. This means if you have a grievance or a question or an idea, there is someone who will pick up the phone or answer the email.
This means you will have a government that is responsive to you.
In my role as a Boston City Councilor, I chair the Civil Rights Committee, and have prioritized initiatives protecting immigrant communities, making rental housing safe and obtainable for all people, and remaining open and accessible to my constituents.
My parents instilled a strong sense of social and economic justice in my younger sisters and me. My dad, Lenny, was the longtime head of the Anti-Defamation League and lived out those values every day of his life. I have also tried to uphold those values, and that began long before I was an elected official or a candidate for higher office. That passion for inclusiveness is in my DNA.
I am running for Secretary of State to make Massachusetts government more accessible for you, your family, your neighbors and your community. I am running to give you the government you deserve.
Josh Zakim is the District 8 Boston City Councilor and a candidate for Secretary of State.