By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — Saying online voting is an attainable means to increase ballot access overseas, Republican candidate for secretary of state David D’Arcangelo took aim Monday at the Democratic incumbent who has occupied the office since 1995.
“Let’s debate,” said D’Arcangelo, who used a life-size cutout of Secretary of State William Galvin “in all his glory” to represent his rival in a midday press conference on the State House steps. He said, “The secretary has had 20 years to reform our public records laws and update our election system – just has not gotten it done.”
In an interview with the News Service, Galvin defended his record overseeing elections, saying he rid the state of the punch card system that caused problems in Florida in 2000, and has resisted using electronic voting machines, which have creates problems in other states.
“We have one of the most reliable and effective voting systems in the country. Voters like to see their ballot, but they also like to get a fast count. They get both,” Galvin told the News Service.
Last week, in response to critiques from D’Arcangelo, Galvin told the News Service his Republican opponent is “somebody that spews lies like a broken sewer pipe.”
“I’ll not engage in an ad hominem attack at all. If he wants to attack me, that’s fine. I’m really just pointing out his record,” D’Arcangelo said, continuing, “Whatever lies he is claiming…let’s talk about them. Let’s debate them in the public square.”
D’Arcangelo said under Galvin, despite public service announcements, voter registration “has been flat,” and accused the Democrat of failing to make himself accessible through Twitter and email, and to provide adequate ballot access to soldiers overseas.
A Malden city councilor who is legally blind, D’Arcangelo said he could show through a new website www.voteinmass.com that online voting, through secure terminals, would work.
The website example, created for D’Arcangelo, allows users to audit the encryption technology used, and includes only Democrat and Republican candidates, omitting among others like Danny Factor, the Green-Rainbow candidate for secretary of state. D’Arcangelo said someone else worked on putting the site together, the exclusion of the other candidates was an “oversight,” and he thinks Factor is “a great guy, personally.”
Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause for Massachusetts, said electronic voting is “not ready for primetime,” and isn’t used in any states, though it is something computer scientists are working toward.
“I think the advocates are not interested particularly in pursuing it until the technology is there,” Wilmot told the News Service. Noting the dangers of rushing technology, she said the state’s system of optical scanners works well, creating a paper record that can be essential for recounting close elections.
Galvin noted Helios, the site that runs D’Arcangelo’s mock-up ballots, recommends “against capturing votes over the Internet.” The site says there are security concerns with personal computers.
“Basically what he engaged in was techno-babble and we don’t entrust elections to techno-babblers,” Galvin said.
D’Arcangelo said Galvin hadn’t made efforts in the online voting arena, and said, “The point is it can be done.” He said, “Is this going live tomorrow? No.”
Galvin, who is the longest-serving statewide officeholder in Massachusetts, regulates the securities and lobbying industries, provides rulings on public records appeals, and oversees elections, among other responsibilities. D’Arcangelo said he has had no response from Galvin on his call for debates. Galvin told the News Service, “I’m sure we’ll find some opportunity at some point,” for one or more debates.
Galvin has said voter registration improved under his watch, and his PSAs are an integral part of the office’s responsibility to reach out to the public. D’Arcangelo’s campaign cited a 2008 U.S. Department of Justice press release stating Galvin had agreed to remedy violations of the Uniformed Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act.
D’Arcangelo crunched numbers on a spreadsheet, which found the percentage of the population actually voting increased by less than half a percentage point from 2002 to 2006 and then again from 2006 to 2010. The percentage of the population voting increased by 3.75 percent from 1998 to 2002 and dropped 5.75 percent from 1994 to 1998.
Flanked by supporters and the cutout of Galvin, D’Arcangelo laid out a “reform agenda” on Monday that calls for publishing more public records online, ending public service announcements by politicians, a new lottery system for determining ballot order, and the removal of the incumbent designation on the ballot.
While he has been knocked for siding with state agencies on public record requests, Galvin has made online records of lobbying more comprehensive over the years and his office created an extensive history of election results. Wilmot said Common Cause, which advocates for transparency in government, supports putting more documents online and does not have a stance on several other D’Arcangelo proposals.
The Legislature this year passed a law establishing early voting in biennial elections and online voter registration. D’Arcangelo said he is in favor of same-day voter registration, a provision stripped from the bill before it became law, but said, “Our system right now can’t handle it.”
D’Arcangelo said secure terminals would be necessary for online voting, while saying electronic voting is “just as, if not more, secure than voting in person.” He said the paper system for absentee voting is “cumbersome” and “costly,” and described the state’s current process for verifying voters’ identities as “capricious and vague.”
Among his reforms, D’Arcangelo also called for changing the political designation of “unenrolled” to “independent,” moving the primary date back to June, and limiting incumbents from carrying their campaign war chests from one election to the next.
D’Arcangleo said incumbents should have to start a campaign with the same amount of money as their challenger, even if that sum is zero. The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned legislative attempts to limit spending on electoral campaigns.
D’Arcangelo’s $8,500 in campaign cash on hand trough August s dwarfed by the roughly $2.5 million Galvin has banked.
Mike Deehan contributed reporting.