Diana DiZoglio’s Audit-The-Legislature Ballot Effort Sees Slim Majority Support In Massachusetts, Poll Finds

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2024/04/23/diana-dizoglios-audit-the-legislature-ballot-effort-sees-slim-majority-support-in-massachusetts-poll-finds/

A SLIGHT MAJORITY of Massachusetts residents support a potential ballot question that would grant state Auditor Diana DiZoglio the power to probe the inner workings of her former colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature, according to a CommonWealth Beacon/GBH News poll.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing, said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the poll (toplines, crosstabs).

Fifty-three percent of poll respondents are in favor of the idea, with 12 percent opposed and 35 percent undecided more than seven months before Election Day. Among registered voters, support is slightly higher at 55 percent. The survey of 1,002 Bay State residents was conducted online between March 21 and March 29. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points. 

“There’s a large lead for the yes side, but there’s also a lot of people who said they don’t know,” Koczela said. “They haven’t made their mind up yet on whether or not they think that this ballot question is a good idea.”

How those undecided people break if and when they go to the polls could be a deciding factor in the audit feud that’s been simmering for more than a year between DiZoglio and top lawmakers. In some ballot questions, voters unsure about an issue have been known to default to the status quo, which is what “no” votes typically represent.

MassINC Pollling Group ComonWealth Beacon GBH News poll April 2024

Other key variables will be if, and when, any formal opposition committee takes shape to urge voters against the question, and what kind of public campaigning emerges from both sides of a skirmish that so far has played out mostly within the halls of the Massachusetts State House. 

DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat, proposed the ballot question after House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) and Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) blocked her plan to conduct a wide-ranging audit of the Legislature and its operations.

DiZoglio, who tangled with legislative leaders over transparency when she was in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and later in the Massachusetts Senate, has sought to raise money for the ballot question effort, and emptied her own campaign account to fund signature-gathering efforts and startup costs for the ballot campaign.

“Whether it’s up, whether it’s down, I’m consistently hearing support for this across the board, across Massachusetts, regardless of political affiliation, and have full confidence this measure will handily pass at the ballot box in November,” DiZoglio said when asked about the poll results.

DiZoglio, a former state representative and state senator, has described the ballot bid as a way to shine new light on a body that does much of its business behind closed doors. But legislative leaders say the move would violate the separation of powers principle in the state’s constitution. 

State Representative Michael Seamus Day, a Stoneham Democrat who serves on the Legislature’s ballot review committee, called the proposal a “power grab” by an elected official from the executive branch, infringing on the legislative branch. “As the public turns more attention to it, they’ll see the problems I’m seeing with it,” Day said.

Koczela, the pollster, said that while voters often like the idea of more transparency, they also, “by and large, think the Legislature is doing a pretty good job.” 

“I think that this is one where voters aren’t necessarily going to be up in arms about it by default,” Koczela said. “That’s not to say they can’t be made to sort of get excited about it, but by default, they’re not super dissatisfied with the Massachusetts Legislature.”

Unlike high-profile ballot questions of prior years dealing with issues like marijuana legalization or the expansion of charter schools, which came after years of public dialogue, Koczela said this is a topic that will be new to many people, and one where the battle lines aren’t as clearly defined ideologically.

As DiZoglio has pushed ahead with the ballot question, she has garnered support from both left and right corners of the state’s political scene. The Massachusetts Republican Party, which has tiny minorities on Beacon Hill, and right-wing groups that opposed DiZoglio’s 2022 run for auditor are backing her ballot question. The MassINC Polling Group survey indicated that Republicans were more likely to support the ballot question (61 percent) than Democrats (51 percent).

On the left, the Democratic State Committee, made up largely of liberal activists, unanimously backed a resolution supporting DiZoglio’s audit efforts, even as top lawmakers, who are also party leaders, say she lacks the authority to audit them.

The progressive advocacy group Act on Mass, which pushes for more transparency from the state Legislature, has also endorsed DiZoglio’s effort. Erin Leahy, the group’s executive director, said she wasn’t surprised the poll found majority support for the audit and that she has “no doubt” the question will pass if it ends up on the ballot. 

In the last two state elections, Act on Mass put non-binding questions on the ballot across a few dozen House districts, asking voters if they wanted to instruct their representative to support rules changes that would make legislative committee votes public. The question passed in every district. 

Leahy said legislative transparency isn’t a priority for Beacon Hill insiders, but it matters to the broader public. 

“The people who don’t benefit from the status quo are the working people who don’t know what’s happening with their taxpayer dollars, with their legislators who have been elected to serve their needs on Beacon Hill,” she said. “I think it actually resonates with everyday people way more than people at the top on Beacon Hill would have you think.”

This article first appeared on CommonWealth Beacon and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.


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