Here’s where the Massachusetts delegation stands on the state’s ranked choice voting ballot measure
"Ranked choice voting will make sure that all candidates have a fighting chance."
Massachusetts voters may currently be split on the upcoming ranked choice voting ballot measure.
But the majority of the state’s congressional delegation has already decided how they’ll vote on Question 2.
Six of the state’s nine members of the House of Representatives are planning to vote yes on the November ballot measure, which would implement ranked choice voting for most state and federal elections in Massachusetts beginning in 2022. And at least one of the state’s two Democratic senators is a firm supporter.
“Rank Choice Voting assures that the voters’ wishes are honored and that’s why I support this important reform,” Sen. Ed Markey told Boston.com in a statement. “Ranked choice voting will make sure that all candidates have a fighting chance.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office referred back to her comments last year on a podcast, during which she said the concept of ranked choice voting had grown on her as she learned more.
“I’ve started reading more of the data, working through more of the examples, and there’s a lot to be said for it,” Warren said at the time. “Engaging more people, and saying, ‘OK, talk about your first choice and your second choice.’ That that might help us as a country get more people both running for office and engaged in those political campaigns.”
However, she hasn’t yet taken an official stance on Question 2.
For the majority of the House delegation, that’s not the case. Reps. Jim McGovern, Lori Trahan, Joe Kennedy III, Katherine Clark, Seth Moulton, and Ayanna Pressley will vote yes on Question 2, their offices told Boston.com.
Rep. Bill Keating is undecided, according to a spokesman. The offices of Reps. Richard Neal and Stephen Lynch did not respond to requests for comment on their ranked choice voting stance.
Also known as instant runoff voting, the system gives voters the option of ranking their preferences when there are more than two candidates on the ballot. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote when voters’ first choices are counted, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes has their votes reallocated based on the next preferences. The process is repeated, if necessary, until one candidate surpasses the 50 percent majority threshold.
While there is no organized opposition to Question 2, critics argue that ranked choice voting can make elections seem more complex, raising concerns of reduced turnout. However, proponents say those concerns are overblown and that ranked choice voting could even increase turnout.
More centrally, supporters argue that ranked choice voting could eliminate worries about third-party candidates having a spoiler effect in the general election and produce consensus candidates in wide-open primary races where a half-dozen candidates or more compete for a narrow slice of the overall vote. Several surveys have also suggested that the system reduces negative campaigning.
Maine became the first state in the country to implement ranked choice voting in 2018, following a similar 2016 ballot measure.
If passed, Question 2 would implement ranked choice voting for primary and general elections for all federal and state elections in Massachusetts, including for members of Congress, the governor’s race, county offices like district attorney and sheriff, and all state legislative races. It would not however apply to the presidential election, nor for municipal elections.
Last week, a WBUR poll found that Massachusetts voters were evenly split, 36 percent to 36 percent, on whether they would vote yes or no on Question 2, with 27 percent undecided.
Some members of the Bay State delegation have had their minds made up for more than a year.
“If the Founding Fathers had understood ranked choice voting, they would have put it in the Constitution,” Moulton told constituents at an April 2019 town hall, adding that the “end result with ranked choice voting would more closely represent what all of you want.”
Trahan — whose narrow victory with just 22 percent of the vote in a 10-way primary race in 2018 prompted calls for ranked choice voting in Massachusetts — has also become a vocal supporter. Her first town hall as a congresswoman last year focused on ranked choice voting and she signed the petition to put the proposal on the ballot after it was certified last summer.
McGovern, Kennedy, Moulton, and Pressley also signed onto a bill last September to require ranked choice voting for House and Senate races across the country.
Last month, the Yes on 2 campaign announced that its slate of honorary campaign chairs includes a bipartisan duo of former Massachusetts governors: Bill Weld and Deval Patrick.
“The Yes on 2 campaign is honored to have the support of such tremendous leaders who Massachusetts voters know and respect and we cannot thank them enough,” Cara Brown McCormick, the Yes on 2 campaign manager, said at the time. “Our growing political divide is not destined to continue if we unify behind reforms like ranked choice voting that can help fix a broken system and bring us together.”
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