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For Cheryl Longtin, ranked choice voting is no choice. The Westford resident sponsored a rally on the town Common on Oct. 31 to encourage votes against Question 2 — one of only two referendum questions on this Nov. 3 ballot.
In a letter to the editor, Longtin wrote, “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 is a ‘fairer’ system.”
As the country becomes more and more polarized, voters cling to their political views, search for a vision, and hold on to beliefs that are not shared by all.
Jim Henderson, treasurer and general counsel for the Yes on 2 Campaign is unwavering in his support of ranked voting.
“…Instead of voting for just one person right now, the voter has the opportunity to rank as many candidates as they want in any state level race that has three or more candidates,” he said. “If there was a Democratic primary with nine candidates for instance,…instead of just working for one candidate, you could actually rank up to all nine, or any subset of that group as you wish. So that’s the voter’s experience.”
To win a ranked choice election, a voter has to earn more than 50 percent support from the voters, Henderson said. When U.S. Rep Lori Trahan won the third Congressional District seat in 2018, she did so with under 22 percent of the vote.
Jake Auchincloss did the same thing this year, Henderson noted, in the fourth Congressional district, winning a nine person race with 22 percent of the vote. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent in the initial tabulation, the vote goes to an instant run-off process where the candidate who comes in last is dropped out.
“And now we’re going to retabulate the ballots as though we’re having a run-off election,” Henderson said. “The people who voted for the last place candidate, we now retabulate their ballots looking at their second choice. And then we do that process again.”
But Longtin rejects the process, saying it’s too complicated and has a high error rate. Her rally drew a crowd of supporters opposed to ranked choice voting.
“The purpose of the rally was we wanted to come out and get people to take a look at us and our signs…we’re really fighting against question 2 which is the ranked choice voting,” she said.
Longtin said that in Maine in 2018 in the Second Congressional District election, the person who had the most votes on the night of the election didn’t win. Votes were shuffled around and 8,000 ballots were discarded — otherwise called ‘exhausted’ — before a winner was declared.
“Not only does this system not necessarily work the way it’s intended, the error rate is huge,” said Longtin, “because in addition to people not ranking their choices there’s a lot of errors with this voting. People over-vote, meaning they accidentally pick too many people…or they undervote, meaning they accidentally skip ranking…”
A couple of years ago, Maine distributed a 19-page manual to explain ranked choice voting, Longtin said, symbolizing the complications involved.
“Aside from the money, we don’t want people to lose faith in the system,” Longtin said.