University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Goldstein v. Galvin VR-MA-0058
Docket / Court SJC-12931 ( State Court )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: Four Massachusetts candidates for state and political offices filed this emergency petition for relief seeking waiver of the in-person signature requirements to appear on the ballot. The Court declared the signature requirements unconstitutional in the context of the pandemic, and ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: Four Massachusetts candidates for state and political offices filed this emergency petition for relief seeking waiver of the in-person signature requirements to appear on the ballot. The Court declared the signature requirements unconstitutional in the context of the pandemic, and halved the number of required signatures, allowed signatures to be collected electronically, and extended the deadlines to collect the signatures.

On April 9, 2020, candidates for the US Senate, the US Congress, and state government filed this emergency petition for relief on behalf of themselves on others similarly situated in the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The plaintiffs sued the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, alleging that the in-person signature requirements violated the Article 9 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought declaratory relief in the form of a waiver of the in-person signature requirements, or substantial modification to the requirements to make it easier for candidates to appear on the ballot.

The plaintiffs stated that both the Massachusetts and US Constitutions recognize two fundamental rights at issue here: the right of candidates to participate equally in the electoral process and the right of voters to cast their ballot as they see fit. The plaintiffs had roughly a month to collect signatures prior to stay-at-home recommendations being issued by health officials. While the plaintiffs collected signatures during this time, they were not able to meet the required number. The petitioners argued that the in-person signature requirements impose severe burdens on these two fundamental rights, and that these burdens do not pass strict scrutiny. They argued that the state's interest could be achieved through more narrowly-tailored means that protect Massachusetts' citizens' lives. The plaintiffs alleged that, even if the rational basis test were to be used, the statute does not bear a real or substantial relation to the general welfare given the public health crisis.

On April 17, Judge Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued a ruling. Judge Gants found that the minimum signature requirements were unconstitutional given in the limited context of the COVID-19 pandemic. He ordered that the number of required signatures for each candidate be cut in half, and also ordered that signatures could be collected electronically. Voters could download the nomination papers, sign the form digitally, then return the form electronically. Judge Gants also ordered that the deadline for candidates running for State district and county officers be extended. The case is now closed.

Justin Hill - 06/28/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
General
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Appellate Court is initial court
Voting
Candidate qualifications
Election administration
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Secretary of the Commonwealth
Plaintiff Description Four Massachusetts political candidates.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 04/09/2020
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
SJC-12931 (State Supreme Court)
VR-MA-0058-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/21/2020
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
Emergency Petition for Relief
VR-MA-0058-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/08/2020
Opinion
VR-MA-0058-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/16/2020
show all people docs
Judges Budd, Kimberley S. Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-0001 | VR-MA-0058-9000
Cypher, Elspeth B Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-0001 | VR-MA-0058-9000
Gants, Ralph D Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-0001 | VR-MA-0058-9000
Gaziano, Frank M Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-0001 | VR-MA-0058-9000
Kafker, Scott L Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-0001 | VR-MA-0058-9000
Lenk, Barbara A. (State Supreme Court) show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-0001 | VR-MA-0058-9000
Lowy, David A Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-0001 | VR-MA-0058-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Jones, Robert G. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-0002 | VR-MA-0058-9000
Roath, Patrick (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-0002 | VR-MA-0058-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Kaplan, Elizabeth (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-9000
Rice, Juliana DeHann (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-9000
Spector, Amy (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-9000
Sterman, Anne L (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-9000
Weitzel, Richard S. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-9000
Other Lawyers Bean, Thomas O. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
VR-MA-0058-9000

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