Massachusetts "Right to Repair" Initiative, Question 1 (2012)

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The Massachusetts "Right to Repair" Initiative may appear on the November 6, 2012 general election ballot in the state of Massachusetts as an initiated state statute. The measure, originally filed four times with the Massachusetts Attorney General, was filed by Arthur W. Kinsman, and was assigned initiative numbers 11-17. The proposal would require automobile manufacturers to provide non-proprietary diagnostic directly to consumers and also the safety information needed to repair their cars.[1][2]


The following is information obtained from the supporting side of the measure:

  • The main proponents of the measure, and the group that organized the petition drive, is the Right to Repair Coaltion.
  • The primary goal, according to advocates, is to expand consumer choice with respect to service centers, and increase number of independent shops that have the ability to repair vehicles.[3]
  • During a legislative hearing on the measure, Ray Magliozzi, co-host of a National Public Radio show, testified in favor of the legislation: “This legislation protects consumer choice and levels the playing field for independent repair shops. Right now, many repairers do not have access to the information and the customer pays big for that disadvantage.[4]
  • State Representative Daniel Winslow stated at the same hearing that the measure should be passed by the legislature and not sent to the ballot, stating: "This legislation is about protecting customer choice, promoting safety, and saving consumers time and money. Consumers are enduring expensive dealership costs and the legislature has the ability to bring relief now. They need to act."[4]


The following is information obtained from the opposing side of the measure:

  • Opponents claim repair shops can already access the data to proprietary information they need and categorized the proposal as a "power grab" by parts manufacturers to control proprietary information.[5]

Path to the ballot

Initial circulation

Each of the ten original signers of the proposed measure must obtain certificates of voter registration from the board of registrars or election commission in the city or town where they are registered voters. The certificate of voter registration must be signed by at least three registrars. These certificates and the original petition must then be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General.

Once the petition is found acceptable, the Attorney general will prepare a summary and return it and the petition to the petitioners, who must file the petition and summary with the Massachusetts Secretary of State. Once that is submitted, petitions are printed and circulation can begin.

Backers must then collect 68,911 signatures by November 23, 2011 and turn them into local registrars. On October 21, 2011, the group behind the initiative effort, The Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, was reported to have collected 106,658 voter signatures. This came only 19 days after the initiative was given clearance to circulation. The amount of signatures collected is far greater than the 68,911 needed to be considered by the general assembly and potentially for the 2012 ballot.

Signature filing

Signatures were filed by the deadline, according to reports, by supporters. Validated signatures were then returned to supporters, who then had until the December 7, 2011 petition drive deadline to turn those signatures in to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office.[6]

Those signatures were deemed valid, according to reports. In late December 2011, supporters of the group stated that the Massachusetts Secretary of State sent a letter confirming that enough signatures were valid.

Since the measure was an indirect initiated state statute, the proposal was filed with the Massachusetts Legislature by Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin as signatures were verified before the start of 2012.[7]

According to Sandy Bass-Cors, of the supporting group, Coalition for Auto Repair Equality: "We are hopeful that Massachusetts lawmakers will pass Right to Repair legislation in the coming months, but if they do not act, Massachusetts voters will have the last word thus ending the battle that has pitted the large vehicle manufacturers against the state's consumers and the independent aftermarket."[8]

Legislative review

May 2, 2012 was the last day for the Massachusetts General Assembly to enact legislation similar to the measure.

On March 21, 2012, the Massachusetts Legislature heard arguments regarding the measure, with supporters urging the lawmaking body to enact the measure and forgo public vote.[4]

The measure had been scheduled to be considered by the Massachusetts State Senate on April 5, 2012.[9]

More than a month after that, the Massachusetts Senate passed the "Right-to-Repair" legislation on May 18, sending it to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.[10][3]

This is the second time in three years that a similar bill has passed the Senate, having passed once before in 2010, but the previous measure fell short when the House failed to bring the legislation to a vote.[10][3]

If the general assembly does not choose to make the proposal a law, supporters must gather additional signatures to obtain ballot access. Those signatures must be obtained from about 1/2 of 1% of voters who voted in the last governor election and supporters must submit them to local clerks.[11]

Validated signatures must then be turned in by the first Wednesday of July to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office. Since the deadline falls on a national holiday, July 4, that deadline could be either July 3 or 5.[12]

See also