The Mass. GOP’s 15% Conundrum: Let’s Be “Reasonable”

The Massachusetts Republican Party has obtained a legal opinion (posted at redmassgroup) from Attorney Michael T. Morley addressed to GOP chair Kirsten Hughes. Attorney Morley opines that the State Committee cannot change the convention outcome to allow Mark Fisher onto the primary ballot.

Case closed? Not so fast.

Attorney Morley’s letter is captioned “RE: Authority to Modify Decisions of 2014 Republican State Convention” but that isn’t the right question. The question is not what authority the State Committee has to modify the decision of the Convention, but what decision did the Republican State Convention make – did the State Committee improperly count 64 blank ballots toward the total needed for Fisher to get his 15%? Because if the State Committee conducted an improper vote count, then the Convention decided to put Fisher on the ballot and the Mass. GOP might wish to find a way to recognize that fact.

Attorney Morley argues that the “The Convention Rules do not expressly permit the State Party Chair, the Presiding Officer of the Convention, the Executive Committee, or the State Committee itself to modify an act of the Convention, including the outcome of a vote taken at the Convention.” It’s fair to say that Attorney Morley doesn’t find any implicit power to change a vote of the Convention either, but again that isn’t the question.

Here’s the key paragraph:

Rule 11 provides, “The Party chair shall determine the method and order of voting for each vote or election during the Convention.” This Rule reasonably can be read to imply that the Party Chair had power, at the Convention, to determine what does or does not constitute a vote. This Rule does not suggest that, once the vote tallies—based on any interpretations the Party Chair proffered— were approved by the Convention, the Party Chair retained ex post authority to revisit, revise, or modify the outcome.

No no no no no no no no!

Rule 11 cannot reasonably be “read to imply that the Party Chair had power, at the Convention, to determine what does or does not constitute a vote.” Under sec. 45 of Robert’s Rules of Order “the (nomination) voting can be by any of the accepted methods” including two different procedures by ballot, viva voce election, roll call election, or cumulative voting. Rule 11 does not allow the chair to determine what counts as a vote, that had already been done by the State Committee and could only be altered by a vote of the Convention, as I argued in Did Mark Fisher Get His 15%?, GOP Convention Voters: Present and Unaccounted For, Sir! and Present = Blank = Abstain.

Mark Fisher has filed a lawsuit to contest the vote. It looks like this matter will be settled in court.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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19 Responses to The Mass. GOP’s 15% Conundrum: Let’s Be “Reasonable”

  1. I agree with you on Rule 11. You make sense, the MassGOP legal counsel does not.

    I find it odd that after reasonably implying a power he then definitively states what the rule does not suggest. What is this power bound by? He could have just as easily stated “This Rule suggests that, once the vote tallies—based on any interpretations the Party Chair proffered— were approved by the Convention, the Party Chair retained ex post authority to revisit, revise, or modify the outcome.” Has as much basis as what he said as far as I can tell.

  2. Dr. Ed says:

    I am glad Fisher is suing, it is going to take loosing a lawsuit to someone whom they consider a “nobody” — to be publicly humiliated by having a judge order them to do things they’ve spent a couple months proclaiming they weren’t required to do — in order to clean up the moral decay and intellectual corruption in that outfit.

    The question I have is if a legislative fix is more in order here — is it time to eliminate the relevance of the conventions from the nominating process (as other states have done) and simply let anyone with (say) 4000 signatures be on the ballot?

  3. Dr. Ed says:

    Professor Cunningham — I trust you are familiar with some of the rather questionable things the Protestants did to the Catholics and then the Catholics did to the Protestants. One that comes to mind was requiring a distinguished Harvard Professor to pass a literacy requirement to vote — which (I’m told) caused him to promptly move to Arlington.

    Isn’t this the same sort of sophomoric childish antics? And look at what the last incarnation of that foolishness got us — the Blaine Amendment which haunts us to this day…

  4. bridget says:

    Attorney Morley opines that the State Committee cannot change the convention outcome to allow Mark Fisher onto the primary ballot.

    Case closed? Not so fast.

    Um, except Attorney Morley, nor the MA GOP, ever said “case closed.” Attorney Morley addressed the narrow point of whether or not Chairman Hughes has the authority to say “Hey, this whole thing is mental – welcome to the ballot, Mark Fisher.” Regardless of what she wants to do, she lacks the ability to unilaterally declare that he may be on the ballot. It would take a favourable verdict in a court case to do that.

    You’re attacking a straw man, Professor.

    • Dr. Ed says:

      What if, hypothetically, it became apparent to all that the folks who did the addition in the back room had made a really big mistake in adding & transcribing figures. Say, hypothetically, they had added 5 and 12 and wound up with 512 instead of 17 — and further, let’s presume that everyone agreed that 5+12=17 and not 512.

      Hughes can’t say “hey, we screwed up, the number ought to be 17 not 512″?

      I can’t imagine anyone saying that clearly wrong numbers — generated not by the convention but by Hughes’ staff — can not be corrected by the person in charge of the folks who made the mistakes.

      • Maurice T. Cunningham says:

        “We (the State Committee) made an error in determining how to count blank ballots. They (the delegates to the convention) gave Fisher enough votes to be on the ballot.”

        Case closed?

        I knew that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland but I did not know that the Catholics drove a Harvard professor to Arlington.

      • Bridget says:

        Re-read Attorney Morley’s memo for a discussion of that, Dr. Ed. Presumably, each side is also doing its own math, and if they let that mistake slip by, would be stuck with it. Even if that is asinine, it would be the rule that is in place.

        I don’t make the rules, but I am pointing out that Maurice Cunnignham’s interpretation of the memo is wildly off. Chairman Hughes has repeatedly been called upon to change the result; she sought legal counsel about that; legal counsel concluded that her hands are tied.

        • Dr. Ed says:

          This is getting almost as convoluted as the circular logic employed to defend Common Core. Bridget, you are adding facts which completely eliminate the relevance of my analogy so I will put it in far more direct terms:

          1: There is a vote at the convention.
          2: People leave the convention/it ends/adjurns/etc.
          3: Party leadership count the vote in the back room.
          4: Party leadership make a mistake in the process.
          5: This is brought to the attention of the chair.l

          You are saying that the chair can’t fix the mistake? That’s asinine.

          Imagine if there was a clerical mistake and someone (thinking of Scott Brown) mistakenly typed the report with the nominee’s name as “Charlie Brown.” Does that mean that Baker would have to sue the GOP in order to get his name “fixed” — are you serious?!?

          Or say someone familiar with the spelling rule “”i” before “e” except after “c”” was to scramble the last two vowels in Richie Tisei’s name. That’s easy enough for someone to innocently do — and you’re saying that Hughes couldn’t just quietly say “Sorry Richie, I’ll take care of it” and reverse the letters back? He would have to SUE HER just to get his name spelled the way that everyone knows it is supposed to be?!?!?>

          This is asinine. This is not how a party convinces the Commonwealth that it can do a better job governing the Commonwealth than the schmucks who currently are.

          And don’t think for an instant that quite-embarrassing mistakes like “Charlie Brown” & “Tisie” can’t happen — when you are dealing with tired people working on deadline, stuff like this happens with some frequency — and as people tend to see what they expect to see, more often than not it won’t get caught before it is released.

          • Dr. Ed says:

            Re-read Attorney Morley’s memo for a discussion of that, Dr. Ed. Presumably, each side is also doing its own math, and if they let that mistake slip by, would be stuck with it.

            I don’t think the Fischer folk did “let that mistake slip by” – my understanding is that they have been howling like demented banshees since the instant they learned of it.

            Even if that is asinine, it would be the rule that is in place.

            In the hundred-and-whatever year history of the MassGOP, the party chair never fixed any other mistake? Ever? Really?

    • The MassGOP can do whatever it wants, and has done so in the past:
      www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/05/27/mass-gop-move-invalidate-caucus-ballots/AA7spH6RjTT4Jz2F7JceMN/story.html

      www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/06/23/romney-campaign-ousts-ron-paul-delegates/3xYwhZ5kbZuRMyMBlXy6EK/story.html

      I remember that one since I wasted a Saturday at the 5th district caucus. People voted and it adjourned. Not buying the “our hands are tied” from anyone in the MassGOP.

  5. Smashpc says:

    Can you even believe that there’s a Republican (Mark Fisher) in Massachusetts who has courage. This is exactly what this corrupt Mass GOP need so restore it’s integrity. Party integrity before party unity!

  6. Dr. Ed says:

    I think the $25,000 “fee” makes this whole thing a lot more complicated — and a whole lot more difficult for a “good government” person such as myself to nonchalantly accept. I’m even starting to wonder if Chapter 93A could possibly apply here, particularly if Fisher paid with his own money, and as Chapter 93A is enforced by Coakley’s office, it could make this a really really interesting mess…

    (Of course, I like to remind my students of the backstory on _Marbury v. Madison_ — who it was that hadn’t managed to get the appointment delivered before midnight in the first place — but I digress….)

    Coming from a state (Maine) where anyone who turns in 2000 validated signatures is on the primary ballot for Governor, this stuff is looking sketchier and sketchier and sketchier by the minute. The state party gets to appoint 365 delegates — on what basis? There’s a $25,000 “fee” — how’s that not “pay to play”? And then the state party gets to essentially make up the rules as they go along?!?

    This isn’t “good government” — Charlie Baker is a class act and I can’t see why he isn’t ashamed to be associated with this sort of stuff. I would be…

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  8. MassGOP had 3 special election candidates and they didn’t introduce them at the convention. Two weeks later, all three lost narrow races (one by 300 votes).

    MassGOP has a gaggle of State Rep and State Senate candidates and they didn’t introduce or have the gang stand on-stage for acknowledgement at the convention.
    They don’t care.

    MassGOP cares about only one thing: their own jobs. And, that means supporting Baker, spending campaign money, and that’s it. They have NO incentive to help elect a state rep.

    To that point, Fat-Cat Brad Jones, the long-serving Democrat-enabler employees staff members who work to try to defeat not only NEW state reps, but also in 2012, 14 members of his OWN delegation! Brad cares only about Brad, and maintaining his SLUSH-FUND campaign money to SUBSIDIZE his own lifestyle.

    The vote was a sham.
    Imagine if BALLOTS WERE USED! VOTER I.D.?
    Novel thought, huh?

    As long as Ron Kaufman, Kirsten Hughes and Brad Jones wield any power, the slime such as Atty. Devito and ‘always-in-the-midst-of-corrupt-votes’ Matt Sisk, will help to sink the party.

    Lonnie Brennan
    www.VoteCoreValues.org

  9. Smashpc says:

    Very well said Lonnie. Did you know that in most, if not every bylaws of RTCs in Mass there’s language that expels any Republican on a town committee who supports Democrats?

    • Yes – a few years back, got one thrown off our RTC. Took a few photos and some work…. I had not thought of that for Jones. But, I’m guessing most of the Republican males on his RTC are castrated.

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