Easthampton, Northampton mayors: Bring ranked-choice voting to Massachusetts

  • 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: 10/16/2020 11:55:30 AM

With Election Day just weeks away, voters are preparing to make leadership decisions that will determine the course of our nation’s future. In Massachusetts, voters will have an equally important decision to make that will impact all of our state’s future elections: whether or not we adopt the ranked-choice voting system for state and federal elections. Ranked-choice voting is a simple system that grants voters more power at the polls, produces leaders that genuinely represent their constituents’ interests, and restores some civility and productivity to the hyper-partisan politics that currently consumes our news cycles.

In a ranked-choice voting system, instead of voting for just one candidate for each office, voters are able to rank all of the candidates running for a given position. It’s as simple as “1-2-3,” starting with your top choice and working your way down. When the polls close, all of the votes are counted. If no one wins a true majority on the first count, the candidate who received the fewest votes is eliminated, and those votes are counted toward the second choice listed on each ballot. This process is repeated until one candidate has earned a majority of the votes.

Since a candidate must receive a true majority of votes in order to win an election, candidates are incentivized to appeal to a majority of their potential constituents, instead of the hyper-partisan fringe base of their party. RCV also eliminates the concern of fringe candidates winning a race with a plurality of the vote because the majority of votes were split between two candidates with similar platforms. Under the ranked-choice system, a majority of voters could have supported both of the similar candidates, ensuring one of them wins, instead of creating a path to victory for the fringe candidate.

With the concern of split voting blocs eliminated, more candidates, especially more diverse candidates, are incentivized to run for office. With more names on the ballot, voters have more — and often better — choices for leadership. Candidates who are willing to put in the grassroots work of connecting with voters and building coalitions have a higher chance of success, even if they don’t have the highest fundraising numbers or the advantage of an incumbent’s name recognition. And when leaders who truly represent the majority come together, our legislative bodies will spend more time legislating and less time engaging in partisan bickering and stonewalling.

Critics of ranked-choice voting may claim that the system confuses voters, but this is disputed by research, exit polls from ranked-choice voting elections and by the fact that communities both around the world and within the United States have used it for decades. Around the globe, Australia first adopted a ranked-choice voting system in 1918, and Ireland did it in 1921. Here in Massachusetts, the City of Cambridge adopted a charter in 1939 that established a form of ranked-choice voting for some local positions. Since then, several other municipalities, and the state of Maine have adopted it as well.

America’s voters are exhausted from hyper-partisan politics and politicians who don’t keep their campaign promises. The ranked-choice voting system is a simple change to our elections that could produce better leaders who will actually work for the voters who elected them. Vote “yes” on Question 2 this Election Day, and help us bring ranked-choice voting to Massachusetts.

Nicole LaChapelle is mayor of Easthampton. David Narkewicz is mayor of Northampton.


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