Around New England

Charlie Baker Declines Comment on Ranked Choice Voting

September 10, 2020

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declined to state a position on ranked choice voting Wednesday.

A ballot question asking voters if they want to replace the current first-past-the-post system of counting votes with a system that would count the lower choices of some voters in certain elections is set to go before Massachusetts voters in the general election in November.

The proposed new system of voting draws support from various points on the political spectrum but trends left.

Ranked choice voting, which was the subject of an extensive story in New Boston Post earlier this week, has drawn passionate support from left-of-center reformers who say it would encourage more candidates, more idealistic voting, and more courting of voters who might be willing to give a candidate a lower-than-first ranking on their ballot even if they wouldn’t make the candidate their first pick. They also tout the idea that the winning candidate should be able to claim support from a majority of voters, whether in the form of votes or first-place-plus-lower-place selections.

Critics, which include many conservatives, say ranked choice voting unfairly gives some voters more than one bite at the apple, since not only are their votes counted but, in some cases, their second-place, third-place, or even lower-place selections may tip the balance in certain elections featuring three or more candidates. Opponents of ranked choice voting also do not see a problem with some elections being won by candidates who get a plurality of votes that is less than a majority, and they question whether combining votes plus the lower-choice selections of voters for also-ran candidates constitutes majority support.

Ranked choice voting in November 2018 resulted in a Democrat winning Maine’s Second Congressional District seat over a Republican who had gotten a plurality of first-choice votes.

Baker was asked about the ballot question during his coronavirus press conference on Wednesday, September 9.

A transcript of the exchange follows:

 

Reporter:  Governor, do you plan on voting on the Ranked Choice Voting ballot question? Do you support the concept?

 

Charlie Baker:  Honestly, I haven’t spent much time thinking about it at all. I’ve been kind of distracted by what we’ve been talking about today.

I’ll certainly – We’ll talk about that sometime between now and the election. But it’s not going to be today.

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