Ranked Choice Voting on Question 2 will Block Reform: Vote No on 2

Question #2 on the state election ballot in November will present voters with a proposition known as “Ranked Choice Voting.” This would allow voters to cast more than one vote in a single race, when there are more than two candidates, allowing them to rank order their choices. It would institute a majority requirement for winning elections, forcing repeated rounds of vote tallying in close races until a 51 percent voter threshold is reached by one of the candidates.

This proposition begs the question, what is Question #2 trying to fix? Proponents claim it will ensure that candidates, who win elections have a majority of the vote, somehow suggesting more legitimacy. This logic is flawed because in most elections, nothing close to a majority of voters ever turns out. According to this thinking, the only way to ensure legitimacy of elections would be to make voting mandatory, as in totalitarian societies.

Plurality voting (whoever gets the most votes wins) is the simplest and most direct method for deciding elections. It has been the practice since the nation’s founding. It keeps elections simple by allowing winners to be easily identified. In contrast, “Ranked Choice Voting” creates an arcane process for tallying votes, which is highly vulnerable to both fraud and error. It will inevitably open more and more elections to challenge, creating confusion and doubt over their legitimacy, paralyzing the transition of authority.

Ranked Choice voting is nothing more than a mechanism for suppressing reform. In a one party state like Massachusetts it will ensure the permanent hegemony of the establishment party, making challenges almost impossible. It violates the principles of one person, one vote and gives members of the status quo political establishment additional votes to block reform.

Consider a scenario in which polls show an incumbent with less than 50 percent support. One way to deflect the threat of a reformer, who challenges the seat, is for the establishment party to put up a third “straw” candidate, who deceptively offers a program of reform. In a ranked choice election, the challenger could win the plurality vote, but not achieve the majority threshold, second and third choices would now be counted. The “straw” candidate would inevitably draw votes from the incumbent’s base and the challenger’s, likely achieving the required majority. If the challenger’s supporters bullet vote (only vote for one candidate) they would throw their votes away on the succeeding tallies. End result, the challenger, even though he or she had more votes, loses the election. Reform is thwarted.

Massachusetts is a state in dire need of reform. The last thing that we need is a process that insulates the political status quo from challenge. Vote “No” on Question #2 and preserve one person, one vote in our elections.

— Dennis Galvin

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