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In Mass. secretary of state debate, Galvin touts experience, Sullivan pokes holes in his record

At left, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin. At right, Boston NAACP Branch President Tanisha Sullivan.
File photos
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GBH News
At left, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin. At right, Boston NAACP Branch President Tanisha Sullivan.

The Democratic contenders for Massachusetts secretary of state squared off Wednesday in a Greater Boston debate at GBH that centered largely on efforts to increase voter turnout and break down barriers at the ballot box.

Seven-term incumbent Bill Galvin touted his years of experience in the role while Tanisha Sullivan, an attorney and president of Boston’s NAACP, poked holes in his record and positioned herself as a candidate who would do more to reach out to communities with lower rates of voter registration.

"This moment in our democracy requires a more proactive secretary of state's office. What we know is that our state is suffering from deep voter participation gaps," Sullivan said, pointing to communities of color and low-income communities that turn out in lower numbers.

“We’ve given people ample opportunities to vote and we’ve encouraged them,” Galvin responded, referencing measures implemented during his time in office that have increased voter participation, such as the extension of early voting, automatic voter registration and vote by mail. “There are disparities, but they’re not caused by the process. They’re caused by the interest of people in certain races.”

Sullivan also pointed out that Galvin failed to make available an online mail-in ballot request portal, as is required by state law. Galvin blamed the Legislature for enacting the law too close to the election and not giving his office enough time to get the portal up and running.

“We've got to address the very real issues in our community, the lack of trust and the lack of faith in our government and in our democracy,” Sullivan said, highlighting her experience in the community and focus on connecting with potential voters. “It doesn't matter if folks are registered to vote if they don't believe in the system.”

Both Galvin and Sullivan said they support same-day voter registration and agreed that the upcoming Sept. 6 primary is not a good election day, as it falls right after Labor Day.

When each was asked whether they would declare former President Donald Trump an insurrectionist, and therefore ineligible for the ballot in 2024, Galvin said he would do so if Trump were convicted. Sullivan indicated she would not allow Trump on the ballot in Massachusetts regardless.

“That will very likely be challenged in court,” Sullivan said. “It will likely go to the Supreme Court. But I believe that it is important for us to do what is right in the interest of our democracy and let it go to court.”

Multiple times during the debate, Galvin pointed to the next presidential election as a defining issue in the secretary of the commonwealth race.

“The most important thing we have to talk about is the future,” Galvin said. “We have a very challenging election coming up in 2024. We know what the national climate is. We know that, nationally, Republicans in state after state made it harder to vote. ... We have to have somebody there that understands, in great detail, the operations of elections.”

This report was originally published by GBH.

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