During my days at Boston University, I was introduced to the concept of citizen-funded elections (aka, “Clean Elections”), which minimizes the corrupting power of money in elections. In 1998 Massachusetts reformers waged an epic battle to put a clean elections proposal on the ballot. It won with 66% of the vote, making Massachusetts the third state in the nation to adopt this sweeping reform.
By 2002, however, the reform was under attack. The Massachusetts State House, led by Speaker Thomas Finneran, used illegal tactics to prevent the funding of the law, rendering it inert. The reformers sued the legislature, and the state Supreme Court ruled that Finneran’s actions were unconstitutional — they would have to either fund the law, or repeal it. The legislature proceeded to incrementally dismantle and finally repeal the law, using a carefully-crafted advisory ballot question of their own to morally justify their outrageous repeal to the public. The full saga can be found at Mass Voters for Fair Elections.
This tragic setback for democracy has only steeled my resolve to improve the processes of this sacred political system. Since 2007, I’ve advocated tirelessly for a menu of critical reforms to make democracy more inclusive and government more accountable. Some of these reform goals are captured in my January 2012 letter to Occupy Boston.
One reform gaining steam is ranked choice voting. In 2016, patriots in Maine enacted this reform by the ballot. Just like with our clean elections law, the Maine legislature relentlessly attacked it. The people prevailed and established Maine as the first state in US history to enact RCV statewide. Based on their success, I founded Voter Choice Massachusetts and built it into the largest statewide effort for RCV in America. Then in 2020 I founded Rank the Vote, to export our organizing methods to activists in every other state of the union.
Since 2010 I’ve sat on the Board of Directors of MassVOTE. A few years after I joined the board of Common Cause Massachusetts. I’ve also worked with or supported great national reform groups like FairVote, Represent.us, and Public Citizen. I’ve worked on transparency issues with the Sunlight Foundation, and am currently making accessible the historical record of election results for the general public with a software product I created, ElectionStats.