Initiative petition seeks ranked voting in Massachusetts
BOSTON (AP) — A proposed ballot question calling for a ranked-choice voting method in future state and federal elections and primaries in Massachusetts is among more than a dozen proposed questions and constitutional amendments filed with the state attorney general’s office.
Supporters filed the measure ahead of Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline for submitting initiative petitions with Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey’s office — the first step in a long, uncertain journey to the ballot.
The proposal faces a number of hurdles before it could reach the ballot in November 2020. If voters were to approve of it, the ranked-choice system would take effect in the 2022 elections.
Emily Fitzmaurice, of Voter Choice Massachusetts, the group pushing the question, wrote that the proposed change is “a commonsense way to re-energize and empower voters across the Commonwealth at this critical time in our democracy.”
Maine became the first U.S. state to use ranked-choice voting in primary elections last year.
Under the system, voters rank candidates on the ballot, and a candidate garnering a majority of first-place votes is the winner. If not, last-place candidates are eliminated and votes are reallocated until there’s a majority winner.
There have been recent Massachusetts elections where a winner was declared without garnering a majority of votes.
In 2010, incumbent Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick won reelection despite capturing just 48.4% of the vote. His Republican challenger, Charlie Baker, received 42% of the vote. There were two other candidates: former Democratic state Treasurer Tim Cahill, who ran as an independent, and won 8% of the vote, and Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein, who got 1%.
Last year, in a crowded Democratic primary for an open seat in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, Lori Trahan won with less than 22% of the vote. She went on to win the general election.
Several other proposed initiatives were submitted to Healey’s office.
One would prevent state taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions. Another is aimed at preventing Massachusetts from becoming a “sanctuary state” — or an area that generally limits cooperation with federal immigration enforcement activities.
Another would update a state law that requires car manufacturers to share diagnostic and repair information with vehicle owners and independent repair shops. Another would hold gun owners who don’t secure their guns in gun safes accountable for any crimes committed by anyone who takes the weapon from the gun owner’s home or car.
Other proposals would grant those in prison the right to vote, require the use of fishing gear meant to protect whales, provide funding for residents of nursing homes, and place sharper limits on political contributions from individuals and political action committees from outside Massachusetts.
Only a handful of proposed questions typically reach the ballot.
State law requires the attorney general to review the proposals to see if they to see if they meet the legal criteria.
Proposals can be disqualified on a number of grounds, including if they were improperly drafted, deal with an off-limits subject such as religion, freedom of speech or other constitutional rights, or call for a specific appropriation of state funds.
If a ballot questions passes constitutional muster, supporters must then go out and collect the signatures of tens of thousands of Massachusetts voters to ensure a spot on the 2020 ballot. Proposed changes to the state constitution face a longer process.
Associated Press reporter Bob Salsberg contributed to this report.