A couple of weeks ago, I returned from a trip to Boston where I participated in strategic planning meetings for the Dignity 2012 Ballot Question Committee, and I facilitated a board meeting for the Death with Dignity National Center. Earlier, I shared an interview I conducted with Michael Clarke, campaign manager, while I was in Boston, but I wanted to continue to share my insights into progress in Massachusetts with supporters of the Death with Dignity National Center.
Massachusetts has an indirect ballot initiative process, meaning the legislature has an opportunity to act on the proposed initiative before it goes to the people for a vote. I was in the Bay State during the final week when the legislature had an opportunity to act, and it was clear they wouldn’t move the bill forward. The campaign, now in its second signature gathering phase, intends to gather 20,000 signatures before July.
Signature gathering is expensive in Massachusetts because of the regulations governing the process. The time frames for gathering are short, and individuals who sign during the first phase of signature gathering can’t sign during the second. The campaign has to sort the signatures by township, and the town clerks have to certify all of the signatures before the campaign can turn them into the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
During the Death with Dignity National Center board meeting, board members invited members of the Dignity 2012 steering committee to several joint gatherings to address the question of paying for this second signature gathering phase. After much deliberation, members of both groups agreed to personally contribute over $80,000 to this effort. This was phenomenally generous, and arose out of a personal commitment on behalf of each individual to help ensure Death with Dignity would be put before the Massachusetts voters.
I cannot tell you how proud I am to be a part of these discussions and to see evidence of a leadership commitment to this effort—the most important one in the Death with Dignity movement today.
The Dignity 2012 campaign is in full swing these days, having gathered approximately 20% of the needed signatures for the second round of signature gathering. Michael Clarke tells me they’ll have an office open and ready for volunteers and interns in the next month.
I’ve been amazed by the all-out support from those living in Massachusetts and the grassroots nature of this campaign. Nearly 400 individuals have contributed to Dignity 2012 so far, and the issue isn’t even on the ballot yet. It’s my sense the coming weeks and months will show exponentially more public conversations about the issue and growth in the grassroots campaign. The people of Massachusetts are just beginning to grapple with this critical end-of-life option, and as they do so, more and more of them will rush to support the campaign.
It’s going to be an exciting summer.
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