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This November, the voters of Massachusetts will be asked to decide whether we want to change our voting system. Question 2 is being pushed by a handful of wealthy out of state donors who are desperately trying to convince you that ranked choice voting (RCV) is a “fairer” system.
Ranked Choice Voting eliminates the long standing principle of one person, one vote. You will be asked to rank all of your choices in order of preference. Proponents of this ballot initiative say it’s as easy as 1,2,3 in their commercials, but imagine what it will be like to rank eight, nine, or 10 candidates in a primary election. Proponents say you can vote for only one candidate if you choose. What they don’t tell you is that if you do this and your candidate is eliminated, your ballot will be considered “exhausted” (i.e. discarded) and you will have no say in the subsequent rounds of reallocation.
If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, the ballots will be taken to a central tabulation facility. After the data is entered the ballots will go through a computerized reallocation process. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The eliminated candidate’s voters get a “do over” and their votes are reallocated to their next choice candidate. And on and on this process goes until someone gets a faux majority.
Proponents of RCV claim that one of the key benefits of this system is that it “ensures majority support” but this is often not the case. In addition to not ranking all of the candidates, “over voting” is also a huge problem. This occurs when two candidates are selected for a choice instead of one. As such, the winner of a RCV election may have a majority of the votes that are left but not a majority of the votes originally cast. Candidates can win with very few first choice votes. Ranked choice voting allows for more marginal candidates to look like they have more support than they really do.
Ranked choice voting claims to be an instant runoff system but in a real runoff you would have the opportunity to learn about your final choices and then make an informed decision.
In a recent congressional election in Maine, it took nine days to determine the outcome with four candidates and 8,000 ballots were discarded. How long will it take if there are eight, nine, or ten? It is inevitable that more elections will be challenged when a winner is finally declared after this confusing process that is likely to be fraught with error.
Democrat Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom both vetoed RCV proposals. Jurisdictions such as Burlington, Vermont, Aspen, Colorado, Pierce County Washington, and the state of North Carolina have tried RCV and then repealed it. Let’s not make the same mistake they did. Keep voting simple and straightforward. Please join me in voting No on Question 2. — Cheryl Longtin, Chair, No 2 Ranked Choice Voting Committee