• MassVOTE

Should Massachusetts institute a ranked choice voting system?

By John Laidler Globe Correspondent,Updated July 23, 2020, 3:18 p.m.


YES Cheryl Clyburn Crawford Executive director, MassVote; board member, Voter Choice for Massachusetts 2020, the group leading the ballot campaign in support of ranked choice voting

Our nation is at its best when we are united, but these days it feels like politics is tearing us apart. Part of the problem is structural and can be found in the way we vote. Plurality voting, our current system, has contributed to a lack of choices for voters, limited competition in our elections, crippling division, outsiders feeling excluded, and a broken democracy. The good news is that this November we have a chance to reform the way we elect our leaders by enacting ranked choice voting. This plan, the focus of a 2020 ballot question, would help fix a broken political system and allow us to work together for the common good. Volunteers statewide, including from such local communities as Gloucester, Natick, and Weymouth, helped drive this initiative forward by collecting ballot signatures well above the number required.

With ranked choice voting, voters rank candidates by order of preference. After ballots are cast, all first choices are counted. If a candidate receives a majority of votes, he or she wins. If not, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and the second choices of voters who backed that candidate are included. The process continues until a candidate reaches a majority. Ranked choice voting puts more power into the hands of voters, where it belongs. By allowing us to rank candidates, it gives us more say at the ballot box. You will never feel your voice isn’t heard or your vote doesn’t count.

We deserve a government that works for “We the people,” not for special interests or the establishment and its hand-picked candidates. Ranked choice voting opens the door for more women and candidates of color. It gives all communities fairer representation and gives candidates with the best ideas — not just the biggest bank accounts — a fighting chance. Ranked choice voting ensures the winning candidate is supported by the broadest majority of voters. All citizens would be able to express their opinions of each candidate, and the overall preferences of voters would ultimately decide the outcome. If we want a more inclusive and democratic electoral system, adopting ranked choice voting is a great place to start.

NO Paul Schlichtman Member of the Arlington School Committee, and the Arlington Democratic Town Committee Paul Schlictman

Ranked choice voting is a solution in search of a problem. Voter Choice for Massachusetts 2020 proposes a ranked choice scheme that resolves problems caused by too many choices. In our one-and-a-half party state, where voters are handed ballots with little or no choice, it’s a plan that does nothing to address the plethora of problems plaguing Massachusetts elections. In November, voters will elect the president and a US senator. Further down the ballot, Massachusetts will elect nine US Representatives, 200 state legislators, and eight Governors’ Councilors. Of these 217 down-ballot races, 138 have only one candidate, based on data I derived from the Secretary of State’s candidate lists.

Our September primary will eliminate 54 candidates from contention. In districts where multiple Democrats are competing without a Republican opponent, our partisan primary will eliminate competition and generate 32 additional uncontested races. The September primary will leave us with 170 uncontested races; 78 percent of 217 down-ballot seats. Ranked choice requires three or more candidates to make a difference. This year, only nine Democratic primary races meet that threshold. Ranked choice supporters will certainly point to the Fourth Congressional District, where nine Democrats and two Republicans are competing. While a Democrat could conceivably win the primary with just 15 percent of the vote, just one Democrat will advance to face an underdog Republican in a noncompetitive Democratic district.

If we truly want to provide voters with choices, we need structural reforms to diminish the prospect of ballots full of uncontested races. California and Washington have addressed this problem by instituting a nonpartisan blanket primary system, in which the two strongest candidates advance to the general election.

A “no” vote on this year’s ranked choice question will require advocates to build a coalition with proponents of other reforms designed to generate competitive elections. If the question is approved, we will not see meaningful reforms, but instead will get ranked choice in a state where 78 percent of the races are uncontested.

Ranked choice merely tacks a complicated counting scheme onto a broken electoral system. If there are too few candidates on your November ballot, your logical choice is to vote “no.”


This story originally appeared in the Boston Globe. Check it out and vote in the poll here!



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