Around New England

Ranked Choice Voting Supporters Trot Out Massachusetts Political Celebrities

July 29, 2020

Supporters of Ranked Choice Voting in Massachusetts have announced honorary campaign co-chairmen that include two former governors, a former lieutenant governor, a former U.S. Treasury secretary, a sports team owner, the current president of the Boston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and a Harvard professor.

The ballot question, if approved by voters in November 2020, would change the way votes are counted in Massachusetts. Voters would be allowed not only a vote for one candidate, as now, but also lower selections that may come into play if no candidate gets a majority of votes.

Maine has such a system now, and it can result in the person getting the highest number of votes not winning the election, as happened in the Second Congressional District in Maine in 2018. That’s because the lower selections of voters who voted for bottom-finishing candidates are awarded as votes in a subsequent round, until one candidate is declared the winner with a combination of votes and lower-choice selections.

Supporters of the measure say it ensures that candidates who fail to get a majority of votes don’t win the election, which they say is a good thing. It also encourages voters to vote for the candidate they like best, even if they don’t think that candidate can win, since in a race of three or more people there’s a chance a lesser-of-evils candidate will benefit from a second (or lower selection).

Opponents see nothing wrong with the current first-past-the-post system, which has been the method in most places in the country since the founding of the Republic. They see Ranked Choice Voting as giving voters two (or more) bites at the apple, which they see as not the point of voting. They also consider the system needlessly complicated, and suggest it may not produce results that are satisfactory.

The honorary co-chairmen of the Yes on 2 – Ranked Choice Voting Initiative announced Wednesday, July 29 are former Massachusetts governors Bill Weld and Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts lieutenant governor Kerry Murphy Healey, former U.S. Treasury secretary and former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers, current Boston Celtics managing partner (and co-chairman of Bain Capital) Steve Pagliuca, Tanisha M. Sullivan, president of the NAACP Boston Branch, and Danielle Allen, a government professor at Harvard and contributing columnist for The Washington Post.