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Consider ranked-choice voting

Ellen Vliet Cohen of Arlington submitted this letter:
go vote 300 51618

Feeling frustrated and disempowered due to social isolation? You have an opportunity to participate from home in an exciting improvement to our democracy.

Voter Choice Massachusetts is conducting an online signature drive to put a question on the 2020 Massachusetts ballot proposing ranked-choice voting (RCV) for state-run elections. With RCV, voters cast only one ballot as usual, but when there are more than two candidates for an office, there is the opportunity to rank second and third choices.

If adopted in Massachusetts, RCV would apply to the 2022 state-run elections. It helps democracy function better for a number of reasons:

  1. It eliminates vote splitting, which can cause someone to win with less than 50 percent of the vote when more than two candidates are running. That results in minority rule, not democracy. With RCV, if no candidate gets the majority on the initial count, voters’ second and third choices are still in play and counted until a candidate achieves a majority. Given the ability to rank their preference, each voter’s voice is stronger, and the winning candidate truly represents the will of the most people. 

2. RCV promotes a diversity of viewpoints and reduces polarization and infighting. Candidates with less-mainstream ideas have a greater chance to influence the conversation. And, knowing that their victory may be the effective result of a coalition of voters, candidates tend to focus less on tearing each other down and more on issues that matter most to the people.

3. You can vote early without the risk of wasting your vote. In the Democratic primary in Massachusetts this past March, more than 60,000 people cast early votes for a candidate who had already dropped out by election day. With RCV, their votes for second and third choice could still have counted.

Last fall, volunteers collected more than 100,000 signatures to put a question about RCV on the 2020 ballot. That was the most ever collected in a state ballot initiative, and an indication of the popularity of this idea. A normal part of the process for a ballot question is to collect a final round of signatures in the spring. The Voter Choice campaign was ramping up to do that when the pandemic changed everyone’s plans. Not to be deterred, the campaign has gone online.

If you are a registered voter in Massachusetts, you can help in a few easy minutes by adding your signature to the ballot initiative electronically. Click here >> 

The signature page asks for some basic information that will allow for validation of your voter information, and then you can sign electronically via DocuSign technology. The state recently allowed for this method of signature gathering due to the need for social isolation during the pandemic.

RCV is a nationwide trend. It was recently adopted successfully in Maine and is used in some form in 25 states already. Last fall a whopping 73 percent of voters chose to adopt it for New York City elections.

If you are excited by this issue and want to ensure that the ballot initiative succeeds, please share the signature URL with your friends and groups that you belong to. To learn more or help out with the campaign, or to request a printed ballot be mailed to you to sign at home and mail back, please explore the website.

This letter was published Saturday, May 9, 2020.

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