A Ballot Committee of
Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government
PO Box 408 * Peabody, MA 01960
Phone:(617) 248-0022 /(978) 538-3900 E-Mail:
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*** Promise Update ***
Tuesday, January 12, 1998

Day One of the Ballot Commission hearing:

Barbara and our attorney, Steve Epstein, attended the opening day of the hearing and, from what I’m told, the teachers aren’t fooling anyone on the commission either! As anticipated, it was a circus—and already the teachers are looking bad and backing down! Barbara asked me to forward to you a report of today’s events, and the State House News Service report follows hers.

Chip Ford—

PS—We still need lots of help in the Boston office; where *is* everyone out there? Call Chip Faulkner or Loretta Hayden at (617) 248-0022 ASAP!

Chip, please share this with our Promise activists:

Wish you could have all been there. As Speaker Tom Finneran gave his annual "C’est moi—the ruler of the universe" speech at the State House, Steve Epstein and I were across the street in the Secretary of State’s conference room defending the Promise petition from the Teachers Union.

Picture this: Steve and I at one table, and at the other, four lawyers—two male, two female—and a huge assortment of MTA or TEAM aids either with them or out in the hall sorting petitions. As I told Steve, if they had two more lawyers, there might have been a level playing field.

As it was, Steve took them on and by the time they were through challenging one city—Quincy—they had backed down on fourteen challenged voters, while we had lost only five, and the rest are exhibits that the Ballot Law Commission will have to decide later.

The Teachers Union was kept scrambling to meet Steve’s demands for copies of everything they were challenging, and the Chairman of the Commission chided their lawyers for not being properly prepared.

The best moment came when he suggested that the lawyers all work through the lunch break and Steve leapt to his feet indignantly: "My lunch should not be disturbed for their ill-preparedness" he complained, and the judge agreed! So Steve got out while the Teachers got their act together.

When we returned, the Judge told the MTA and TEAM that the morning had been "hardly impressive, to start out with waiving more than you’ve passed."

Next best moment, at the end of the six hour hearing, when the Judge expressed concern that we had covered only three communities and noted that there were probably other city/town clerks in the room who had not been called to testify. He was quietly informed that almost everyone in the room—roughly twenty people besides us and the Teachers—was a clerk who had been subpoenaed and told he/she would testify today! Then one leapt to his feet indignantly and asked the Judge: "Are you aware that there are 20 clerks in the other room? This is just the morning group!"

In other words, the Teachers subpoenaed about 40 city/town clerks for a six hour hearing, that actually took the whole morning for just one city! We are of course in no hurry; they must prove their case by the 23rd, or they don’t prove it. But by the end of the day we had lost only those five Quincy voters, the Teachers had backed down on 20, and the rest are to be decided later by the Commission.

Another 34 clerks have been subpoenaed for tomorrow.



SHNS...TH....JAN. 12, 1998.....The state’s Ballot Law Commission today heard opening arguments and preliminary testimony on a challenge to bar a tax-rollback petition from the November ballot.

On one side of the debate is the largely volunteer organization Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government, and on the other, the powerful Massachusetts Teachers Association.

The MTA, joined by the Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts, is challenging the rollback petition before the ballot commission, arguing that town clerks improperly certified 2,000 signatures, rendering the initiative invalid.

On its petitions to decrease the state income tax to 5 percent from 5.95, CLT&G collected 65,009 voter signatures, just 81 more than necessary to qualify for the ballot.

MTA/TEAM officials say the state cannot afford such a tax cut, and that the quality of education would suffer from funding cutbacks.

Today, MTA/TEAM lawyers announced they would question hundreds of town clerks over the next nine days to show the clerks had made thousands of mistakes in certifying the petitions.

"We intend to show approximately 2,000 instances of where signatures were certified and they are in fact non-certifiable," said MTA/TEAM lawyer William McDermott in his opening statement.

During this morning’s session, MTA/TEAM lawyer Haskell Kassler questioned Quincy town clerk Joseph Shea on a series of petition signatures.

Kassler repeatedly asked Shea to examine the Quincy voter registration list, trying to show that petition signers were not registered voters, or that clerks had counted signatures of voters who had given the wrong address.

Many times, CLT&G lawyer Steven Epstein forced Kassler to withdraw his challenge by showing that the town clerk had properly recorded the signature.

One of the issues the ballot commission must decide is whether an address such as " 12 Oak St., Apt. #9" is the same as "12 Oak Ave., Apt. #9." While a petition signer’s name needs only be substantially similar to their voter registration, the law requires addresses to be exact.

Before the lunchtime break, MTA/TEAM had successfully\ challenged only two or three signatures out of about a dozen, but Kassler remained confident.

"I just wanted to get a sense of how the commission was going to be," Kassler said during the break. "It’s the first day with a new commission."

Kassler said he could have brought forward much stronger challenges, but wanted to see how the panel would view his introductory evidence. Kassler said he plans to challenge a number of consecutive husband-and-wife signatures. It is illegal for voters to sign a petition on their spouses’ behalf, and MTA/TEAM has hired a handwriting expert to argue that many such signatures are invalid.

But in his opening statement, Epstein said the ballot commission should remain the arbiter of signature validity, and said CLT&G could not afford to hire an expert.

As CLT&G chairwoman Barbara Anderson walked from the hearing room at lunchtime, she remained confident her petition would prevail, if not in this hearing, then in court.

"What is the point of this hearing?" Anderson asked. "It’s very unusual for a town clerk to certify a person who is not a registered voter. There’s a good chance we won’t lose the first round."

The second round will likely be played out in Suffolk Superior Court, where CLT&G will ask the court to allow an additional 1,000 signatures that town clerks improperly excluded, Anderson said. "We’re going to pick up a lot of signatures then," she said.

The ballot commission’s decision is expected by Jan. 23.

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