|Senator Joyce addresses BU Law community at foreign press conference|
Massachusetts State Senator Brian A. Joyce predicted that Democrats would keep the White House in an Election Day foreign press conference held by the U.S. State Department at BU Law. But he acknowledged that a Romney administration would be no reason to leave the country—both presidential campaigns accentuated differences between the candidates despite their agreement on “probably 90% of the issues.”
Reporters from news stations in countries that included Bulgaria, Germany, Argentina, India and China were in attendance along with their host U.S. Foreign Service Officer. They probed Senator Joyce for his perspective on the election given his 16 years in the Massachusetts legislature. He had sincere praise for both President Obama and Governor Romney, referring to each as “incredibly bright” and “competent.”
Senator Joyce and President Obama were elected to state legislatures within a year of each other. The senator joked that he was “still
here” after President Obama’s meteoric rise to the White House. Presidents since Truman have tried to nationalize health care, and
Truman recounted his failure in that effort as his greatest regret. But the current president overcame the stigma of “socialized medicine”
to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
As the challenger, Governor Romney’s performance in the first presidential debate demonstrated the “comfort with numbers and sharp
business sense” that he brought to Beacon Hill. Reporters asked the senator to clarify Governor Romney’s social positions. The senator responded that the governor began his tenure in Massachusetts as a “competent business person and moderate individual,” but immediately shifted right in anticipation of the national stage. If he had run for a second term, he would have lost in the heavily Democratic Commonwealth.
Of course, “Obamacare” was modeled on “Romneycare.” Governor Romney orchestrated health care reform for Massachusetts in 2006 with support from the business community. The reform corrected the problem of uninsured patients receiving heath care and passing along the cost to those paying for insurance. Today, 98% of Massachusetts’ residents are insured. But at the national level, requiring individuals to be insured took on the cultural significance of interfering with individual liberties. In this way, the national stage pushed Romney to wrestle with the social ideology of his political party.
Economic skills are important. Governor Romney can point to his record of balancing the state budget—even though the Massachusetts
constitution requires a balanced budget and does not allow deficit spending. President Obama can show “irrefutably that the economy has been improving”—even though mature and diversified state economies like Massachusetts are recovering quicker than other state economies.
But beyond a set of economic tools that both candidates can employ, President Obama’s personal story also took on cultural significance on the national stage. His father was an immigrant without political connections or wealth. Something in the American psyche wants to know that life trajectories like President Obama’s are possible—that if we study hard and work hard, any of us could be President of the United States.
Reported by David Linhart ('12)
Over the past few years, many of the nation's states have enacted stricter voter ID laws, some requiring people to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. During the run up to the 2012 presidential election, we asked BU Law students whether they're in favor of or against these regulations.
This year, Massachusetts voters have a chance to weigh in through a question on the ballot as to whether assisted suicide will be legalized in the state. The so called "Death With Dignity" initiative would give terminally ill patients, with a life expectancy of six months or less, the opportunity to request assisted suicide from their doctor. We asked BU Law students what their opinion is on the matter and how they will be voting on election day.
|Elizabeth McIntyre ('14) stands outside one of her designated polling locations|
Strikingly long lines and near-freezing temperatures were a source of frustration for many New England voters on November 6. But for others, simply being able to cast a ballot was a much greater concern.
Several BU Law students joined over 10,000 volunteers nationwide to provide Election Day voter education and protection through the Election Protection coalition, the largest nonpartisan initiative ensuring all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. Through partner the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, students were trained in voting laws and paired with local attorneys to visit targeted polling locations across New England.
Elizabeth McIntyre (’14), co-service chair of the Public Interest Project (PIP), was one of theleaders in bringing the opportunity to campus.
“PIP wanted to do something around the election and poll-watching,” McIntyre says, so she got in touch with the Lawyers’ Committee and encouraged them to run a training session at the law school. A number of students attended, as well as members of the community.
On Election Day, the volunteers hit their designated precincts ready to assist voters and poll workers. McIntyre notes that they had many successes, particularly in situations where voters were unclear on where they were registered to vote. In one instance, a woman had moved back and forth several times between her two ailing sisters’ residences to provide each with medical care. McIntyre and her partner volunteer were able to help the voter find which residence she was registered under with an app they downloaded from Election Protection.
Additionally, students used their legal knowledge to clarify voter ID laws, which were a source of much confusion for poll workers and voters alike. While voters never have to show photo identification in Massachusetts—an official letter with name and address suffices—many were unaware this was the case.
“If you’re a poll worker, when a line is long, you might not take the time to specify what you mean by ID,” says McIntyre.
The volunteers were able to prevent a number of voters from leaving or filling in a provisional ballot, which may never be cast, by letting them know that documentation such as a food stamps assert letter was acceptable.
Rahsaan Hall, deputy director for the Lawyers’ Committee, acknowledged that while most of the Commonwealth’s registered voters were able to cast a ballot, there were reports of voter irregularities, particularly with poll workers inappropriately turning people away for lack of photo identification.
“The help of volunteers, including BU law students, was a great benefit to those voters who needed help on Election Day,” says Hall. “Providing people with their polling location, informing them about identification requirements, reporting instances of long lines and other irregularities allowed the Election Protection team to communicate with state and local election officials to help resolve some of those situations.”
McIntyre said that while she wished poll-watching was not necessary, she enjoyed the experience and learned a lot.
“I always think that the best way to learn something is to practice it, so this is a good way to practice—you learn the law.”