Editorial: Vote ‘yes’ on Questions 1 and 2

  • A summary of Ballot Question 1 in the Nov. 3, 2020, Massachusetts election, known as a right-to-repair law, is displayed in a handbook provided to voters by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Sept. 23, in Marlborough, Mass.  AP Photo/Bill Sikes

  • A summary of Ballot Question 2, known as a ranked-choice voting law, in the Nov. 3, 2020, Massachusetts election is displayed in a handbook provided to voters by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Sept. 23, in Marlborough, Mass.  AP Photo/Bill Sikes

Published: 10/22/2020 6:34:28 AM

While there’s little question that Trump versus Biden is the major draw in this year’s general election, Massachusetts residents will also decide two important ballot measures on Nov. 3. One could change the process in which some state and federal officials are elected, while the other would determine how people repair their vehicles. We support both of these questions.

Question 1, known as right to repair, would update a 2013 state law that allows vehicle owners and independent repair shops the same access as carmakers to the vehicle computer information, or mechanical data, used to diagnose problems. This diagnosis typically occurs by plugging a handheld code reader into a physical port in the vehicle.

The 2013 law contains a loophole that right-to-repair supporters correctly say needs to be closed. The law specifically excludes access to “telematics,” or the diagnostic and repair information that newer cars can send wirelessly straight to the dealer. That process cuts out independent repair shops and do-it-yourselfers, putting them at a competitive disadvantage.

Question 1 would give vehicle owners the right to access this “telematics” data and share it with their mechanics. This is sensible law. Vehicle repairs are a major expense for many people — often unexpectedly — and people should have the right to choose where they get that work done without car manufacturers controlling the information.

Car industry experts estimate that more than half of the new cars sold in 2018 in North America included telematics services, and some 90% of 2021 models have the capability. Do we really want carmakers controlling so much of this market?

It’s not a surprise that car manufacturers like Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Honda are dumping millions into encouraging voters to reject Question 1. They and other opponents are focusing on privacy laws, arguing that the change is more about collecting private information — think location data in real time, as one example — than leveling the playing field for independent shops.

That argument rings hollow, especially given that the text of the law refers to mechanical data that is “used for or otherwise related to the diagnosis, repair or maintenance of the vehicle.”

If the question doesn’t pass, as technology continues to evolve, dealerships could box out independent repair shops and auto parts stores, creating a monopoly on the car repair industry.

Local mechanics are an intrinsic part of every Valley community. They deserve our support.

Ranked-choice voting

Question 2, referred to as ranked-choice voting, is an idea whose time has arrived. Wouldn’t it be great if we elected people to important offices that more than 50% of us support? That’s called a majority, and there are too many times when it doesn’t happen.

Also known as instant-runoff voting, this system allows voters to rank multiple candidates in order of preference. If one candidate fails to receive a majority of votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Ballots ranking that candidate highest are then redistributed to the voter’s second choice. That process is repeated until one candidate has a majority.

If approved, ranked-choice voting would take place for primary and general elections for state executive officials, state legislators, federal congressional and senate seats, and certain county offices beginning in 2022.

Not only is it wise to have officials working for us who won the support of a majority of their constituents, but such a system will likely spur more people to run for office, and, we hope, lead to elected officials who better reflect the diversity of constituents they serve. This benefit banks on the idea that candidates can run for office without fear of being a “spoiler” by splitting the votes among two candidates with similar viewpoints. Voters, meanwhile, won’t have to “strategize” about who to vote for to avoid the possible election of a candidate they don’t like. Instead, they can pick two candidates with similar viewpoints.

Ranked-choice voting is not complicated, as some opponents have characterized it. It is a different, and we believe, a more fair way to best represent the desires of an electorate.

The idea is not new. Voters in 2002 and 2004, in the 3rd Hampshire and 1st Franklin state representative districts, supported ranked-choice voting. The system is used in many other countries, by Maine for its state elections, and by 20 cities nationwide. Locally, Amherst and Easthampton have adopted ranked-choice voting, though neither community has started using it.

With ranked-choice voting, democracy wins.


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