Ranked Choice Voting? Four Years After Massachusetts Voters Said No, Advocates At It Again

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/08/21/ranked-choice-voting-four-years-after-massachusetts-voters-said-no-advocates-at-it-again/

Ranked-choice voting supporters are trying to get a ballot question on the 2024 state ballot in Massachusetts, four years after state voters rejected it.

Ranked choice voting, which comes into play when there are three or more candidates for an elected office, asks voters to rank their choices, if they wish, in preferential order.

The current system of voting in Massachusetts known as “first past the post,” requires voters to pick a maximum of one candidate per race on their ballot, and whichever candidate gets the highest number of votes wins, even if that total is less than a majority of the votes cast.

In ranked-choice voting, voters’ second or lower choices come into play if no voter gets a majority of votes. In that case, the bottom finisher is eliminated, and from the ballots of votes for that candidate election officials distribute the second choices to the remaining candidates. The process is repeated until some candidate gets a majority of votes plus lower-rank selections.

Massachusetts voters rejected ranked choice voting in a 2020 ballot question, 55 to 45 percent.

But recently, three ranked-choice voting proposed questions (numbered 23-04, 23-07, and 23-08) have been submitted to the state attorney general’s office and could appear on the statewide 2024 ballot. Sone advocates of ranked-choice voting are also pushing Boston to adopt the system for city elections.

Advocates of the ranked-choice voting say it’s better than the current system because it ensures a candidate who wins has wide enough support.

In a ranked-choice race, “the person that really, truly gets the most support is the person that actually gets elected,” MassVote executive director Cheryl Crawford told WBUR on Tuesday, August 15. “It eliminates that whole vote-splitting and spoiler problem that we’ve had in the past.”

Ranked Choice Boston, a recently formed group, held a rally on Wednesday, August 16, calling for Boston officials to institute ranked-choice voting.

“Many of the coalition members in attendance pointed to the fact that Boston is ready for a more equitable and democratic system of voting for residents in municipal elections,” the group said in a written statement.

Opponents of ranked-choice voting say it gives some voters a disproportionate say in who gets elected, and that it confuses most people.

“It would be, in my opinion, completely horrific if Boston did this,” Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a non-profit advocacy group based in Boston, told WBUR. “It would confuse the heck out of voters.”

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance also says that putting another question on ranked-choice voting on the statewide ballot four years after it failed would violate the state constitution.

“The Massachusetts constitution protects voters from repeat ballot questions within a short period of time, a measure aimed at preventing advocates from trying to ram through policies via the ballot question process,” the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said in a written statement Monday, August 21.


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