In addition to our priorities, the GGP identified the following bills as important measures to improve democracy in Massachusetts
There is no current mechanism for reporting or recording information about political internet ads. People, corporations and foreign entities can and do purchase ads, often targeting specific segments of our population. Keeping an archive of such purchases will increase transparency and discourage election interference.
This bill would create an online public archive of all internet electioneering communication. Any entity that purchases a political ad would be required to report the details to the archive director including the name and address of the entity making the communication, the name of any candidate the communication identifies, the name and address of the vendor used, and the purpose and date of the expenditure. This would only apply to those who spend more than $250 on such communications in a fiscal year. New York and Washington State
passed similar bills creating public archives of internet ads. Other states such as California and Maryland
do not create archives, rather they require a disclosure on the ad itself of who paid for it. The Honest Ads Act
is a national bi-partisan effort to extend current regulations of political radio and television ads to apply to internet ads as well. The act was reintroduced in 2019 but died in committee.
The Corporate Accountability for Political Spending (CAPS) Act requires that corporations in Massachusetts receive the support of a majority of its shareholders before donating to any electioneering entity. It requires that shareholders vote on the total amount of money or property for political expenditures for the fiscal year, as well as the candidate(s), political party or parties, political committees, or ballot referendum, it would support. or any tax-exempt entire under section 501(c)(4) or section 501(c)(6). Corporations must notify shareholders of the amount, recipient, and purpose of a political expenditure within 48 hours of making it.
Currently, corporate directors do not need direct approval from shareholders for spending decisions. Instead, the business judgment rule assumes that they are acting in good faith for the corporation’s best interest. They are not required to disclose political donations to shareholders and can donate as much as they would like throughout the year. As a result, the political spending of a corporation may not reflect the values of its shareholders. The CAPS Act addresses this and also limits a corporation’s political spending by requiring it to set a total expenditure amount for a fiscal year.
The CAPS Act is a part of a nationwide movement aiming to counter the effects of Citizens United. Currently, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Maryland have introduced similar bills.
This bill would make Massachusetts the 6th state to call for a constitutional convention to amend the federal constitution to effectively overturn Citizens United, and therefore allow our federal and state governments to enact regulations and reasonable limits on this campaign contributions.
At the moment, Supreme Court precedent says that spending money on political advertising is speech, and is protected by the first amendment. This allows corporations and individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising and campaigns, as long as they do not coordinate with candidates. This makes elections more expensive, and gives wealthy people and organizations the ability to have an outsized role in elections.
Gerrymandering is a practice that corrodes democratic integrity. It allows politicians to choose their voters, rather than voters choosing their politicians.
This bill would start the process of amending the Massachusetts Constitution to require that redistricting be done by an independent redistricting commission. The Commission have members would be chosen by the Governor, the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Attorney General, and the majority and minority leaders of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate. The members of the independent commission would agree to not run for any office with districts drawn by the commission until the next redistricting cycle.
The Massachusetts Constitution Article CI currently requires that congressional districts and state legislature districts be decided by the state legislatures themselves. It is probably worth noting that in the 2020 election cycle, 74% of state house races were uncontested
, as were 80% of state senate races.
14 other states currently have independent redistricting commissions.
33 states currently have their state legislatures manage their redistricting process. 3 states have hybrid models, which balance redistricting between multiple different groups.
Convicted felons who are imprisoned have not been allowed to vote in Massachusetts removed that right in since 2000 via Constitutional Amendment. This bill would create systems to educate incarcerated people about their voting rights, and create systems to help ensure that incarcerated people are able to exercise their voting rights. (This isn’t actually what the linked bill would do, but
Convicted felons who are imprisoned have not been allowed to vote in Massachusetts removed that right in since 2000 via Constitutional Amendment. Current law does allow people incarcerated for misdemeanor offenses and those awaiting trial to vote while they are incarcerated. However, there are no real systems in place to ensure that incarcerated people who have the right to vote are actually able to vote in elections. This means that most incarcerated people in Massachusetts do not vote.
This bill would remove Boston’s redistricting exemption and require that Boston’s ward lines be evaluated and if necessary, redrawn, every 10 years based on the census. Ward lines create divisions in cities for administrative purposes such as assigning polling locations for elections. Most large cities redraw their ward lines regularly to adjust for population changes.
Currently, Boston is exempt from redrawing its ward lines, meaning the lines haven’t been redrawn in 100 years. Though population density in different precincts has changed, the number of polling locations has not. This leaves some areas with large populations but few polling locations and creating unreasonably long lines at some polling locations. This creates disproportionate voter experiences and can discourage voters from participating in elections.