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Raise Your Voice: A Guide to the Massachusetts Elections

With the Massachusetts general election approaching, many Lesley students might be going to the polls for the first time. The election coming up on Tuesday, November 4th is called a mid-term election, meaning the President of the United States is not running for office– this series of elections occurs in the middle of his term.  Traditionally, participation in mid-term elections is much lower than those in a presidential election year. The mid-term elections are no less important than a presidential election year, however. Voters will have the chance to choose their Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, a Senator in Congress, as well as other positions in their districts.

While the United States is a democracy, most laws are passed through indirect democracy, where the citizens vote on representatives to make decisions for them. One of the only forms of direct democracy—where citizens can directly make decisions within the government—in the United States are initiatives. In the upcoming election, there will be four initiatives on the ballot. For an initiative to pass, it needs a majority vote, meaning 51% or more.

The first ballot initiative is regarding a repeal of the 2013 gas tax indexing; people who want it repealed believe taxes should be lower, and people who want it to remain support it because it helps to pay for repairs on roads and bridges.  The second initiative is an effort to update and expand the bottle bill. The third is to prohibit casino gambling statewide; proponents believe it will bring many jobs to Massachusetts and help the economy,  while opponents believe it will lead to social problems,  and not be beneficial to the state at all.  The fourth initiative is a law in support of giving employees paid sick days.

Most elected positions within government have nominees from the two major political parties: the Democratic and the Republican parties. Traditionally, the Democrats are more liberal and the Republicans are more conservative. Nominees also have the choice to run as Independents, meaning they do not identify with any of the major parties. In the Massachusetts general election, there are a few nominees running under the Green-Rainbow party. This party promotes people, peace, and the planet.

This year, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor position are up for election. These positions are the highest positions one can have within a state government; at the state level, the governor and lieutenant governor are similar to the President and Vice President at the national level. Martha Coakley and Steve Kerrigan are the nominees for the Democratic party and Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito are the nominees for the Republican party. Coakley is the current Massachusetts Attorney General; Baker is a health care executive who worked in the administration of a previous governor, William Weld.  Additionally, there are three other candidates for governor who are running as independents:  both Evan Falchuk and Jeff McCormick have backgrounds in the business community, and Scott Lively is a conservative Christian minister.

The Secretary of State position is up for election, as well. The Secretary of State is primarily responsible for serving as the state’s chief elections official and keeping records of official documents of the state’s citizens. This year, incumbent William F. Galvin is running as the Democratic nominee for re-election to this position. David D’Arcangelo is running as the Republican nominee and Danny Factor is the Green-Rainbow party nominee.

The Attorney General is the main legal advisor to the government. This election has two new candidates running for the office. Maura Healy is representing the Democrats and John B. Miller is representing the Republicans.

A seat in the U.S. Senate is up for election in Massachusetts this year, as well. This is a position that can be voted statewide. Edward J. Markey is running as a Democrat and Brian J. Herr is running as a Republican.
Additionally, there are elected positions that only those within a district are allowed to vote on. These include candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, representatives to the state Senate, and local or county positions.

When students are at a university away from their hometown where they’re registered to vote, it can be difficult, timely, or even impossible to travel back home to participate in the election. Absentee voting allows those who are unable to make it back home, or those who just don’t want to go out to the polling booths, to still participate in the elections. Most states require a voter to register as an absentee voter a few weeks before the election. The rules for absentee voting vary between states but allow voters to participate even though they are out of the area.

Whether this will be your first time to the polls or you’ve been voting for thirty years, it is important to turn out for this mid-term election. Whether citizens participate or not, there will be politicians elected in to office making decisions that affect us every day. Many people have fought throughout history for the right to vote and voice their opinions. Although voting rights have been fought for and achieved, everything is not right in the political system. The only way to make sure we’re not silenced in politics is to use our voice and our vote to elect people who will fight for us. As William E. Simon said, “Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.”

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