Voices & Choices

Massachusetts House Primary Shows Need for Ranked Choice Voting

Massachusetts House Primary Shows Need for Ranked Choice Voting

Yet another crowded primary has chosen a winner with less than a fourth of voters supporting them, adding to the sad litany of American elections that were won even though the majority of voters picked someone else. 

In the Democratic primary for Massachusetts’s 4th Congressional District, the leading candidate received just 22.4 percent of the vote, less than 2,000 votes above his closest rival. The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth place candidates each received more than 13,000 votes, and in our plurality voting system none of those voters will have their preferences considered in the choice between the top two. 

This election provides even more evidence of the need to implement ranked choice voting (RCV). RCV avoids plurality outcomes by allowing all voters to weigh in on the remaining candidates as those with fewer votes are eliminated. It ensures that whoever has the greatest depth of support wins, letting citizens vote their conscience without worrying about whether their favorite candidate is likely to win. It also incentivizes candidates to stay focused on the issues and avoid negative tactics so they appeal to voters as a second or third choice.

Maybe the same candidate would have won the Democratic nomination in Massachusetts’ 4th district this year with RCV, but they would have sought back-up support from their opponents’ voters to do so and demonstrated deep support, leading to a stronger position going into the general election.

Recognizing these benefits, and seeing how RCV would have improved their own election, seven of the candidates in the CD4 Democratic field endorsed the system.

Thankfully, Voter Choice for Massachusetts submitted over 100,000 signatures to put an RCV initiative on the November ballot, giving Bay Staters the chance to take a major step towards better elections this Fall.  

If passed, Question 2 would adopt RCV in Massachusetts’ state legislative, state executive, and congressional elections. It is supported by the Yes on 2 campaign, a bipartisan coalition of people from all walks of life who want to make elections fairer. Several prominent Bay Staters are serving the campaign as honorary co-chairs, including two former Governors - Democrat Deval Patrick and Republican Bill Weld. 

“It’s been proven that not only does ranked choice voting discourage negative campaigning, but it provides more choices for voters while increasing participation in our elections. This is what true representative democracy is about.” - Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

Yes on 2 is now looking for volunteers to help spread the word about this necessary improvement to our democracy. Those looking to help out and make a difference in Massachusetts can sign up here.


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