Galvin watching for impact of ex-Dems in Tuesday election

Secretary William Galvin speaks at a pre-election press conference March 4, 2024 ahead of the presidential primaries. Sam Doran/SHNS photo

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restored former President Donald Trump's name to the Colorado ballot makes it "all the more important" for voters to express their opinions in presidential primaries, Massachusetts' elections chief said Monday.

Citing "significant" early voting numbers, Secretary William Galvin said his prognostication for "a reasonably good turnout" on Tuesday in the Massachusetts primaries could be "enhanced a little more" by the court's Monday morning ruling.

More than 50,000 Bay Staters have already cast ballots in person, and more than 400,000 have voted by mail in advance of Super Tuesday.

Galvin said he expects to see more than 600,000 Democratic primary ballots cast by Tuesday's end, and said GOP ballots will "surely exceed 400,000 tomorrow."

"This morning's decision makes it all the more important that those voters who have opinions on the presidency take the opportunity to express them, because clearly what the court said today was that they will not do anything to decide the outcome of the presidential election. They've left it up to the voters and ultimately to Congress on the issue of the enforcement of the 14th Amendment," the Brighton Democrat told reporters.

The state record for turnout in a Republican presidential primary was set in 2016, when 637,703 voters cast a GOP ballot.

Party enrollment continues to dwindle, while the rising ranks of unenrolled or "independent" voters are able to choose on Election Day which ballot they want to pull, and Galvin said independents "can really swing an election."

Comparatively "fewer" party changes in this calendar year have included more than 13,000 "Democrats going independent" since Jan. 1, the secretary said. Those former Democrats would now be free to pull a Republican primary ballot.

"That could be a factor in tomorrow's voting," Galvin said. He added, "I had to assume eight years ago that when I saw Democrats going Republican that they were doing it for Trump, because he was the candidate with momentum eight years ago in the primary, and he was. I mean, clearly -- I guess the one common theme between 2016, 2020, and 2024 is Donald Trump. It's a factor. However you want to play it, or however you want to observe it."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Trump v. Anderson found that enforcement "against federal officeholders and candidates" of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — known as the insurrection clause — "rests with Congress and not the States."

The Reconstruction-era Constitutional amendment includes a prohibition on certain previous officeholders who "have engaged in insurrection" subsequently holding "any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State."

Citing that clause, challenges to Trump's ballot access have been launched in multiple states. In Massachusetts, a challenge was dismissed by the Ballot Law Commission whose decision was upheld by Supreme Judicial Court Justice Frank Gaziano in January.

The U.S. Supreme Court wrote Monday, "Conflicting state outcomes concerning the same candidate could result not just from differing views of the merits, but from variations in state law governing the proceedings that are necessary to make Section 3 disqualification determinations. Some States might allow a Section 3 challenge to succeed based on a preponderance of the evidence, while others might require a heightened showing."

The result could be a "patchwork" of state enforcement, the ruling said, and "[n]othing in the Constitution requires that we endure such chaos — arriving at any time or different times, up to and perhaps beyond the Inauguration."

Galvin opined that the high court "deliberately" reported its unanimous opinion before Super Tuesday, when 15 states decide their convention delegates. The secretary's traditional pre-primary press conference was already scheduled for Monday morning, around half an hour after the ruling began to hit national headlines.

"They did not take the bench to issue it, they issued before 10 o'clock this morning -- so that all the voters who are voting tomorrow, and all the voters who are going to be voting over the next few months, know what the rules are, know what the impact of the 14th Amendment is, and know who's responsible to enforce it, which they say is the Congress, that's the majority," Galvin said.

Galvin had already read the ruling by his 10:30 a.m. press conference and underscored that it was a unanimous decision of the nine justices.

But he added that a difference in the concurring opinions was whether the court should have gone so far as to say "only an act of Congress" could enforce the 14th Amendment.

"And as the three concurring justices said, they didn't think that was necessary to go to that step at this point. And they in fact ... suggested the majority was insulating the court from further action on the issue of the insurrection clause even after the election, that it would leave it up to the Congress. ... It also says to the voters that if you really are that concerned about the insurrection clause, and they should perhaps be, it's up to them, that you need to affect the election of members of Congress."

Attorney Marc Salinas, whom the state Republican Party had hired to defend placing Trump on the Bay State primary ballot, said in a statement that the push to remove Trump from primary ballots was "purely politically motivated."

"When you take politics out of the analysis this was the only correct result. That's why we saw a unanimous decision from the Court," Salinas said Monday.

"This ruling is a victory for our democracy and the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," the MassGOP said in an email blast. "Citizens have the right to vote for whomever they feel most confident in representing them, and the Supreme Court's decision reaffirms this fundamental right."

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

In a few communities, local matters will also be decided Tuesday.

Republican John Marsi is unopposed in a Central Mass. special election to fill a vacant House seat that represents Dudley, Southbridge, and parts of Spencer and Charlton. And six towns are also holding concurrent municipal elections with separate ballots: Dover, Lexington, Plainfield, Reading, South Hadley, and Wellesley.

Any voters still holding onto a mail-in primary ballot should not drop it in the mail, Galvin said. At this point, it should be dropped off in person in order to arrive before Tuesday's end and be counted.

"The opportunity is there for everyone to participate," he said.

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