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Legislature needs to initiate ballot question on Olympics

Secretary of State William F. GalvinJessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File

Boston Olympics organizers may be facing a legal hurdle in their effort to give voters statewide a say on the city’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin, the state’s top elections official, said the Massachusetts Constitution does not allow Boston 2024 or any other group to sponsor a simple up-or-down vote on the Olympics.

Outside groups, he said, can only sponsor statewide ballot questions that enact or repeal laws or instruct state lawmakers to enact or repeal laws.

Only the Legislature can initiate a ballot question that seeks to gauge public sentiment on a particular issue, with no law at stake.


Galvin said he suggests that lawmakers sponsor a question for the state primary ballot in March 2016, which would give voters more opportunity to focus on the Olympics, before the full-scale onslaught of ads from the presidential election in November 2016.

“It would be a healthy turnout in the primary in March 2016 and it’s still early enough in the process that’s its meaningful,” Galvin said.

In November 2016, “it seems to me it’s going to get swept away,” he said.

Doug Rubin, a Boston 2024 consultant, said the group was working with its lawyers to craft a question that passes legal and constitutional muster. If Boston 2024 were to sponsor a referendum on its own, it would need, among other things, to gather 64,750 signatures from voters.

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.