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editorial | GOP senate race

Signing on the dotted line

THE SPECIAL election for US Senate has posed a logistical challenge for some potential candidates. The already brief period allotted for gathering the 10,000 certified signatures needed to make the primary ballot was further truncated by the recent blizzard, which lopped off a precious weekend of signature-garnering time.

That could prove a particular problem for prospective GOP candidates. Three of them — businessman Gabriel Gomez, former US Attorney Michael Sullivan, and state Representative Dan Winslow — have said they will run, making for a spirited and informative primary. But first they have to get on the ballot. Only registered Republicans and unenrolled voters can sign their nominating papers; because Republicans are only about 11 percent of the state’s voters, GOP hopefuls have a smaller group to gather from.

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The labor-intensive task of garnering signatures on nominating papers can seem a throwback in the digital age; for future elections, policymakers should explore the possibility of letting voters support a candidate’s nomination by e-mail, provided verification and anti-fraud safeguards could be developed.

But that obviously won’t happen before the 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline for US Senate hopefuls to get their nominating papers to city or town election officials for signature verification.

There is, however, a way that the individual campaigns and the political parties can put technology to use. Secretary of State William F. Galvin says they could put the nominating forms on their websites, with the necessary candidate information filled in. Individual voters could then print out a copy, sign it, and deliver or send it to their city or town election officials. Add in an e-mail effort to alert city and town party committee members to that petition-signing possibility, and the digital dimension could help some hopefuls clear the signature hurdle.

It’s not a perfect solution, but in this rushed political period, it just might be a candidacy saver.

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