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Signatures filed in Massachusetts, but more hurdles on the way

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June 29, 2010

By Al Ortiz

Massachusetts: It is a complicated process in Massachusetts if one wanted to place an initiative on a statewide ballot, as deadlines must be met multiple times for a measure to be certified. On June 23, 2010, one of those deadlines was met by all four circulating measures, as sponsors had to turn additional signatures for their initiatives by that date to city and town clerks across the state.

This is just one hurdle of the many that petition organizers faced, and still face, in order to see their efforts gain ballot access:

  • Supporters must have collected a minimum of 66,593 valid signatures from registered voters by December 2, 2009; except for veto referenda, where they must have collected 33,297 signatures.
  • Measures that had turned in enough signatures were then reviewed by the Massachusetts Legislature, where they had the option of enacting it into a law or rejecting it.
  • If the Massachusetts Legislature did not approve of an initiative by the May 4, 2010 deadline, petition organizers must then obtain signatures from about 1/2 of 1% of voters who voted in the last governor election and submit to local clerks by June 23, 2010. This figure turns out to be 11,099.
  • The aforementioned deadline of June 23, 2010 was for sponsors to then turn in those additional signatures to city and town clerks.
  • City and town clerks then must verify signatures and have until July 2, 2010 to do so. When Ballotpedia contacted the City of Cambridge elections division, the office stated that they check signatures by typing in the address of those signatures into their system to see if the signer is a registered voter. Signatures must also be legible, according to the office.
  • After signatures are validated by the July 2 deadline, initiative sponsors must collect the validated signatures and turn them in to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's Elections Division in Boston. The office then checks the petitions, however, according to Secretary of State's office when contacted by Ballotpedia, they check for stray marks on the pages and the official count on the back of each page as written by a city or town clerk's office.
  • Initiatives are then rejected or approved for the ballot once this process of counting signatures is completed by the Secretary of State's office.

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