Around New England

Massachusetts Republican State Committee Opposing Ranked-Choice Voting

October 10, 2020

The Massachusetts Republican State Committee has voted unanimously to oppose a ballot question seeking to implement ranked-choice voting statewide, a party spokesman said.

The resolution calls ranked-choice voting “unnecessarily confusing” and prone to resulting in spoiled ballots. The measure also “raises the potential for rigging and gaming elections,” the resolution states.

Jim Lyons, the chairman of the state GOP, seemed to refer to a column in New Boston Post when commenting on the state committee’s resolution.

“One person, one vote. That’s the bedrock of American elections,” Lyons said in a written statement. “If ranked-choice voting had existed in 1860, Abraham Lincoln would not have been elected president, that’s a fact.”

Ranked-choice voting, which is on the November 2020 general election ballot, would replace the current system in Massachusetts, which is known as first-past-the-post.

In the current system, the candidate with the highest number of votes wins, even if it’s less than a majority.

In ranked-choice voting, voters are invited to rank candidates from first choice on down. In the event no candidate gets a majority in races with three or more candidates, the bottom-most candidate is eliminated and his voters’ second-choice selections are distributed to the other candidates as votes. The process continues until one candidate gets a majority of first-place votes and lower-choice selections and is declared the winner.

Supporters of ranked-choice voting call it an “instant run-off” and say it ensures that winning candidates have support of some kind from a majority of voters, which they say is better than allowing candidates who draw less than a majority to win election. They also say the system encourages lower-party candidates to run, since there’s less of a chance they will prove spoilers in a general election, since their voters’ lower-choice selections may end up deciding the winner. They also argue that the system encourages winning candidates to represent various points of view, since they have an incentive to win not just first-choice votes but also lower-choice selections from voters.

Opponents of ranked-choice voting see nothing wrong with first-past-the-post, and they say ranked-choice voting needlessly prolongs close elections in complicated recounts, doesn’t guarantee the desired majority-support candidate winning, and gives lesser-party candidates’ voters effectively more than one vote.

Some opponents also object to how ranked-choice voting has worked out elsewhere.

In 2018, ranked-choice voting in Maine flipped the result of the Second Congressional District election in the central and northern portions of the state. The Republican incumbent won a plurality of votes but it was less than a majority, and when the lower selections of the voters for the third-place and fourth-place finishers were factored in, the Democratic challenger was declared the winner.