Tuesday, 14 July 2020 19:44

Legal Challenge Fails to Kill Massachusetts Referendum Regarding Car Owner Control of Repair Data

The Massachusetts Right to Repair Committee on July 1 turned in 24,000 signatures to the Secretary of State regarding a ballot question that would mandate car companies provide car owners with control of repair data generated by their vehicles.

The submission is more than the 13,374 signatures required by law to have a question placed on the ballot. While these signatures are usually collected manually, the COVID-19 virus forced the committee to seek a consent decree from the Massachusetts Supreme Court that permitted the collection of signatures electronically.


On July 8, vehicle manufacturers, under the guise of the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, submitted a legal challenge to the Massachusetts Ballot Commission, arguing the Right to Repair Committee disobeyed electronic signature-gathering requirements outlined by the Massachusetts Supreme Court by storing the signatures in a separate file and tracking personal data without notification. 


However, in a similar case decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Court on July 13, a candidate for Congress, Helen Brady, who used the same signature-gathering vendor used by the Massachusetts Right to Repair Committee, had her challenge approved---thus allowing Brady to move on to the November ballot.


Following that decision, the vehicle manufacturer coalition withdrew its challenge and the Secretary of State declared the right to repair question will appear on the ballot and have the chance to be decided by Massachusetts voters.


The Right to Repair Committee released the following statement regarding the Secretary of State’s approval of the question for the November ballot:


“We are pleased for the voters and the tens of thousands of Massachusetts workers who depend on a free and open auto repair market,” said Tommy Hickey, director, Massachusetts Right to Repair. “By withdrawing their challenge, the front group for automakers and car dealers has admitted that their arguments against the Right to Repair signature effort were specious, ill-informed and not based on facts.


"Their attempt to once again thwart the will of the voters is a sign of their greed and continued desire to monopolize the auto repair market, leaving Massachusetts consumers and independent repair shops in the dust. The scare tactics from manufacturers and dealers have failed. A ‘yes’ vote for Right to Repair will protect Massachusetts drivers’ choice to continue to get their cars repaired wherever they want.”


The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, a collection of voters and groups determined to protect consumer safety, privacy and cybersecurity, also released a statement.

“The challenge has been withdrawn given the SJC ruling. However, it should be noted that ballot access is a different issue than public policy and voter privacy," said Conor Yunits, spokesperson. "The fact remains that the vendor used by the proponents of this proposal collected and stored deeply personal information on anyone who signed their petition.


"That violation of privacy and risk to cybersecurity should not be forgotten---especially given the ramifications of this question. We will remain focused on sharing the truth about this dangerous proposal and defeating it at the ballot box.”


Source: Auto Care Association, Coalition for Safe and Secure Data

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