Voices & Choices

As Lowell, MA narrows down voting methods, ranked choice voting emerges as potential option

As Lowell, MA narrows down voting methods, ranked choice voting emerges as potential option

A little over a month ago, hundreds of ranked choice voting (RCV) activists descended on the Massachusetts capitol building to lobby legislators to support RCV.

In May, the Easthampton, MA city council greenlighted RCV and sent it to the public for approval in November.

And now, Lowell, MA has winnowed its potential voting systems from seven to two to comply with a DOJ Consent Decree. Under the Consent Decree, Lowell will put two non-binding questions on the November 5, 2019 ballot to solicit voter preference between RCV and a 11-member “hybrid” system with three at-large and eight district seats.

Lowell must abandon its current election method before the 2021 elections to comply with the DOJ consent decree stemming from a 2017 lawsuit, which alleged that the previous voting system (nine city council members elected at-large) diluted the votes of communities of color.

Under at-large RCV, also known as Proportional Representation, city council and school committee elections would be determined by allowing voters to rank their preferences the election of nine members. A candidate attains office if they meet the vote threshold, which is ((valid votes/1+seats) +1 vote). For example, if a Lowell city council election has nine open seats and 15,000 valid votes, the threshold for any particular candidate to win office is 1,501 votes (10%+1). The system is already in use in Cambridge, MA and Minneapolis, MN, and will be used in Eastpointe, MI this November as part of a settlement with the DOJ

This reform, by ensuring that these historically underrepresented communities can coalesce behind preferred candidates and propel them to office, would provide the marginalized communities with a voice in government--finally giving these communities adequate representation and making governance fairer.





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