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Bonifaz: A Candidate for the Rest of Us

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John Bonifaz is seriously considering running for election next year as Massachusetts Secretary of State, or more properly, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A victory for him would be a victory of national importance for election reform and voting rights.

John's Voters' Bill of Rights includes "a guarantee of open and transparent elections with verified voting, paper trails, and access to the source codes for, and random audits of, electronic voting machines [and]"a guarantee that we the people, through our government, will control our voting machines not private companies."

John is apparently not planning to model his service on that of Katherine Harris or Ken Blackwell.

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But John Bonifaz is also not your typical liberal candidate. He is one of the nation's leading experts on voting rights. Further provisions in his Bill of Rights reflect that background. They include:

--election day registration;
--early voting;
--ensured absentee voting;
--publicly financed elections and campaign spending limits;
--instant run-off voting;
--cross endorsement voting (fusion voting);
--proportional representation;
--redistricting reform;
--eliminating language barriers;
--non-partisan election administration;
--and support for congressional re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and for a constitutional amendment that affirmatively guarantees the right to vote.

Are you getting the picture? Electing Bonifaz Secretary of State would mean putting in office someone who actually cares deeply and passionately about the right to vote and who knows more about protecting that right than does almost anyone else alive.

When I met John in the spring of 2002, he was working at the National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI), which he had founded in 1994, and he was arguing a case in federal court challenging the increases in individual contribution limits in the Shays-Meehan/McCain-Feingold legislation. ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which I worked for, and DC ACORN President Katie Fitzgerald were among the plaintiffs in the case. John argued, brilliantly and unsuccessfully, on their behalf that increasing the already extremely high limits on campaign contributions (which were reached by fewer than 1 percent of Americans) amounted to discrimination against Americans who were neither extremely wealthy nor willing to serve primarily the interests of the extremely wealthy.

If John runs for Secretary of State, he will be running as someone who is himself not wealthy, and he will need our help. I strongly suspect that more than a few ACORN members will send him $10 or so. Those of us who can afford to should send more. And we should do so now, in order to encourage him to run.

Visit to make a contribution.

Let me give you a few more reasons to get behind John Bonifaz.

John has continued to lead the fight for campaign finance reform, and in September the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case brought by NVRI that will give the Court its first opportunity in nearly 30 years to revisit its 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo, which struck down congressional spending limits on First Amendment grounds. This opportunity is the result of a decade of work led by John Bonifaz.

After the Massachusetts Clean Elections Law was passed overwhelmingly by the voters of the Commonwealth in 1998, John led the effort to challenge the Massachusetts legislature's refusal to fund the law. NVRI won a landmark ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, forcing the state to provide the necessary funds to all qualified candidates running in the 2002 state elections.

John has also led the fight for a recount of Ohio's voting in last year's presidential election. He has been serving as the lead attorney representing Green Party candidate David Cobb and Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik, and has been able to bring Democratic candidates John Kerry and John Edwards into the suit, and to keep them in it at times when Kerry has wanted to pull out. Bonifaz testified about evidence of election fraud in Ohio at a forum held on Capitol Hill by Congressman John Conyers last December.

But John's work has reached well beyond the area of voting rights. He is a scholar of the U.S. Constitution, and he saw it violated when Congress voted to hand over to Bush the ability to declare war on Iraq. In early 2003, John served as lead counsel in John Doe I v. President Bush, a challenge to Bush's authority to wage war against Iraq absent a congressional declaration of war or equivalent action. John represented a coalition of US soldiers, parents of US soldiers, and Members of Congress (led by Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. and Dennis Kucinich) arguing that the president's planned first-strike invasion of Iraq violated the War Powers Clause of the US Constitution. You can read an account of this case and the argument made in "Warrior King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush," By John Bonifaz (Nation Books-NY, foreword by Rep. John Conyers, Jr., January 2004)

I began working with John again in May of this year, when he and I were two of five people who co-founded a coalition called After Downing Street. John was the driving force behind this project, which was launched when he sent a memo to Congressman John Conyers laying out a case for an investigation into grounds for impeachment of Bush. Bonifaz's argument focused on evidence that Bush lied to Congress in a formal statement on March 18, 2003, which provided the reasons why Bush claimed war was necessary.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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