Getting on the ballot should be a challenge

Mary Franklin, who hoped to challenge Martin Walsh as a candidate for mayor of Boston this fall, did not make the ballot. Franklin, who announced her plans to run almost two years ago, failed to collect enough valid, certified signatures.

Current law requires that candidates for the office of mayor submit at least 3,000 signatures of enrolled Boston voters to earn a spot on the September ballot. Four men— Martin Walsh, Tito Jackson, James Wiley and Robert Cappucci— made it by submitting more than the required amount by the deadline, May 23.

Franklin is crying foul. In an interview on NECN, she claimed that the certification process favors better-financed candidates. She also claimed that one of the four— she did not say who — “fraudulently” collected signatures by claiming that the petition he circulated was for a rent-control measure, not a nomination for mayor of Boston. Her charge has not been verified.

Franklin also claimed that the process is unfair because as she alleged, better organized candidates collected thousands more signatures than needed. “The pickings are not that prosperous, if you will,” Franklin told reporter Sue O’Connell, adding that “you can only sign for one mayoral candidate.”
But her allegations are off base.

Here are the facts: Any candidate for mayor is given a window of three weeks to accumulate the required 3,000-plus valid signatures and submit them to the city’s Election Department for review and certification. Election officials will count and certify 3,000 voters— plus an additional 20 percent of that 3,000, or 600. As each of those 3,600 names are checked off the voter list, they are then “off the table” for any other candidate for that same office.

That means that although you as a voter can sign the petition to nominate as many candidates as you’d like, it will only be counted once, assigned to the candidate who gets that signature into the Election Department first.

Mayor Walsh’s campaign reported that his volunteers gathered 38,521 signatures for his re-nomination. More than 12,000 of those names were gathered on the first day of eligibility.

But, in the final analysis, Walsh’s team took no more than 3,600 potential nominators out of the pool of potential valid signatures, because election officials stop counting after they hit that number. At most, the four candidates who made the ballot took a total of 14,400 names off the list.

It’s important to note: More than 227,000 Bostonians voted in last November’s election. And that’s just 57 percent of the people who were registered to vote in the city last year.

It’s not easy to mount a citywide candidacy for mayor or at-large council (a seat that requires only 1,500 certified signatures). Nor should it be.

Contenders for an office of such importance should have the requisite organizational skills — and hustle— to gather a reasonable amount of support from their neighbors. Three thousand (or 3,600) in a city with well over 300,000 registered voters is a challenge, but hardly burdensome for a viable contender for this critical office.

If someone used subterfuge to gather names for the ballot this fall, that’s a notable and serious allegation and one that should be exposed. But there are plenty of potential nominators in our communities — registered and active— whose signatures could have been counted had they been gathered. To suggest otherwise is not fair or accurate.