Secretary Galvin addresses ‘unease in our democracy’

Secretary Bill Galvin hands out miniature American flags to 7th graders from Wilbraham Middle School after leading them in the Pledge of Allegiance at a Flag Day ceremony in Nurses Hall on Fri., June 14. State House News Service photo

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin diagnosed the issues he sees repelling some voters from the two major political parties and gave his outlook on the health of American democracy in a televised interview that aired last Sunday.

Talking with Jon Keller on WBZ-TV, the state’s top elections official of three decades said Sunday that he’s now the senior-most state elections official in the country. And he said many of his counterparts from both parties “share the same concerns – that we have citizens who are distrustful of the process [and] we have anxiety about the accuracy of the process – none of which are factually justified.”

“Nevertheless, it’s contributing to an unease in our democracy, that we’re very concerned. And there’s no ignoring the realities of January 6 of 2021; there’s just no ignoring it. We have to get beyond that. We have to make sure that the laws are clear. I think the Congress has done something positive there regarding presidential elections. And we have to have transparency in the election process at every level to make people confident of it,” Galvin, a Brighton Democrat, said.

Democrats around the country have framed the 2024 presidential election as one about “the fate of our democracy,” as Gov. Healey put it last fall.  When Donald Trump lost the presidency to Joe Biden four years ago, he and his supporters pushed back against the election results and some attempted on Jan. 6, 2021 to interfere as Congress certified Biden’s victory. The Biden-Trump rematch on tap for this November has kept issues of election integrity, political campaign norms and democratic traditions on the front burner.

Galvin said he thinks Massachusetts has “had a very good record of” maintaining public confidence in elections, citing his refusal to allow digital ballots, the fact that voters here can place their paper ballots directly into ballot boxes, and the state’s laws around recounts.

When Keller asked if he is more or less confident in the health of the American democracy than when he took office in 1995, Galvin responded by saying that he is “confident in people’s interest in making sure democracy is protected.”

“I’m concerned about the twists and turns that many recent developments – such as social media, misinformation, AI, all these things that we’ve seen develop – the effect that can have,  and the reluctance of people to accept an election result,” he said. “That’s the concern. As Americans, we should join in accepting the concept that we all vote, we always don’t win, but we all have to agree that the elections, provided they’re properly run, should be accommodated and approved as a result.”

Galvin also talked about the slate of questions that appear on track to go before voters on the Nov. 5 statewide ballot, including measures related to the auditor’s ability to audit the Legislature, union rights of gig economy drivers, the role of MCAS exam, and more.

The longtime Democrat told Keller that he sees issues with both parties and offered his take on their direction.

“I think the Democratic Party and the Republican Party both have — its manifest all the time — significant internal discussions about policy and various groups within both parties have strong opinions about policy. We just saw in the New York state primary for congressional races, where these fault lines are very much on display,” Galvin said, referring to last week’s primary in which a moderate Democrat unseated progressive US Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

“Obviously, on the Republican side, I guess pick your poison, if you will. If you want a lockstep party that, ideologically, seems to be out of touch with many people, they seem to be going in that direction. Many moderate Republicans are somewhat alienated by some of their views as well.”

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