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Challenges to Direct Democracy: The Massachusetts Right to Repair Ballot Question

by Jaclyn Petruzzelli

In an exercise of their democratic freedoms under state law, Massachusetts residents successfully petitioned to have three distinct initiatives posed to voters on November 6th. Of those three ballot questions, two received widespread media attention: (1) the legalization of medical marijuana, which ultimately passed by a wide margin, and (2) the legalization of prescribing medication to end life, which, after passionate debate, was defeated by a relatively small percentage of voters. Meanwhile, results for the third ballot initiative regarding the availability of motor vehicle repair information for independent repair shop owners, more commonly referred to as the “right to repair,” were not so much as acknowledged by major news organizations. However, after receiving strong voter support on Election Day, the right to repair initiative has begun to gain some media attention.

On August 8th, over a month after the deadline was met to have the right to repair initiative placed on the ballot, Governor Deval Patrick signed Bill H.4362 into law. This act “protecting motor vehicle owners and small businesses in repairing motor vehicles” included variations of many of the provisions within the right to repair initiative, all of which had been thoroughly debated between legislators and leaders in the automobile industry; and subsequently were passed with unanimous bipartisan support. Proud of their accomplishments, legislators urged voters to ignore the right to repair ballot question in order to avoid having to reconcile Bill H.4362 with the statute drafted by the citizens. Continue reading

Sticker Candidates in a Technological Age: The Case of Massachusetts

by Jaclyn Petruzzelli

Robert Fennel has been the State Representative in the 10th Essex District in Massachusetts for the past 18 years. In September, he won the primary handily, receiving nearly 90% of the vote. While this scenario is not unique among incumbents across the nation, what makes the story of the 10th Essex County race interesting is that sticker candidate Gardy Jean-Francois earned the other 10% of the votes via write-in. Continue reading

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