The two sides of ranked-choice voting

Massachusetts voters will decide on the November ballot whether to overhaul the state’s system of voting by switching to ranked-choice voting for most non-presidential elections.

Under ranked-choice voting, as envisioned by Question 2, each voter ranks candidates according to preference. A candidate who gets more than 50 percent of first-choice votes wins. If no candidate reaches that threshold, however, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and their ballots are recounted based on the voter’s second choice. The process repeats until someone gets a majority.

Evan Falchuk, chair of the YES on 2 campaign and a former United Independent candidate for governor, and Nick Murray, a policy analyst with Maine Policy Institute, joined The Codcast – in separate interviews – to discuss the pros and cons of ranked-choice voting.  

“Ranked-choice voting is a simple upgrade to our democracy that gives voters a greater voice and more choices,” Falchuk said. “It makes it so voters never feel their vote is wasted because they can vote for who they truly like without worrying that they’ll split their vote or they’re going to be voting for a spoiler.”

But Murray says ranked-choice voting, which is used in Maine, actually has a less representative outcome. He focused on the fact that some ballots are thrown out, or “exhausted,” because a voter did not rank enough choices to reach the final rounds of tallying. “How can a voting system be considered more democratic or more responsive to the voters if it needs to remove voters from the final tally to get to its stated goal of a majority?” Murray said. “It simply is a false majority.”

Falchuk argues that many of the problems with the current system – negative campaigning, pandering to a small voter base, the feeling of needing to “pick between two evils” – will be lessened with ranked-choice voting.

Falchuk said third party candidates will get a boost because voters will have fewer worries about “spoiler” candidates or electability, since if a person’s first choice gets eliminated, their second choice will count. “It levels the playing field for new voices and new choices,” Falchuk said. “The math doesn’t end up encouraging strategic voting, you can just pick who you actually like.”

But Murray said ranked-choice voting ends up disenfranchising more voters – particularly those who have less information, speak English as a second language, are less educated, or older. These voters, he said, are more likely to mark their ballots incorrectly or rank fewer choices leading their ballots to be “exhausted” before the end of the count. Regular elections, he said, typically see 2 to 3 percent of ballots thrown out due to mismarking, while ranked-choice voting typically has 10 to 11 percent of ballots that are uncounted in the final tally.

Murray said ranked-choice voting still leads to strategic voting – for example, voters must decide how important it is to rank a certain candidate first to avoid another candidate reaching the 50 percent threshold — but “it makes that strategizing much more complex.”

Murray said Maine has continued to see negative campaigns and outside spending even with ranked choice voting. “We know the nature of politics runs much deeper than the way we vote,” he said. 

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Museums are refocusing their programming and reinventing themselves to survive COVID.

The MBTA is revising its ridership projections downward based on scenario planning that assumes telecommuting becoming standard practice.

New England governors seek a bigger say in the shaping of policy regarding operation on the region’s power grid.

In their one and only debate, Republican Sen. Dean Tran of Fitchburg and Democratic rival John Cronin trade salvos over ethics and experience.

The pandemic is forcing an exodus of women from the workforce.

Over the IRS’s objection, a California judge allows prisoners nationwide to pursue federal stimulus checks.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s “miracle budget” doesn’t rise to the occasion

Opinion: Republican Senate candidate Kevin O’Connor blasts rival Ed Markey’s support for court packing…Nursing home residents need more help voting, say Arlene Germain and Alison Weingartner of Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Alex Green of the Harvard Kennedy School, and Bill Henning of the Boston Center for Independent Living. …With a second COVID-19 spike nearing, ending the eviction ban is a big mistake, say Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone and Cambridge Rep. Mike Connolly….Gov. Charlie Baker’s “miracle budget” doesn’t rise to the occasion, says Monique Ching of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center….Richard Dimino of the business group A Better City urges Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack to open up the I-90 “throat” review process.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Beacon Hill lawmaking appears to have ground to a halt, despite legislators extending their session through the end of the year. (Boston Globe

The Eagle Tribune takes a closer look at what Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget proposal means for local aid. 

A Globe editorial says it’s time to hear directly from Mark Pearlstein, the attorney tapped by Baker to carry out a review of COVID-19 deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Three North Shore towns hold town meetings Saturday under tents, despite the rain. (The Salem News)

The town of Richmond puts on hold fines assessed against the state Department of Conservation and Recreation for failing to rectify damage by contractors working on Lenox Mountain. (Berkshire Eagle)

Salem officials are begging Halloween visitors to stay away, due to fears over spreading COVID-19. (The Salem News) The Fall River Board of Health and Department of Health and Human Services are recommending against trick-or-treating this year in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. (Herald News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Hospitals across the state are stockpiling protective gear to prepare for a potential second surge of COVID-19 cases. (Boston Globe)

Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo wants more data to help understand why his home neighborhood of Hyde Park is suffering the city’s highest positive COVID-19 test rate. (Boston Herald

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The controversial New York Post article about Hunter Biden was published despite doubts over its credibility among reporters at the paper, with the staffer mostly responsible for writing the piece refusing to have his byline on the story. (New York Times

ELECTIONS

Democrats are anxious despite Joe Biden’s consistent polling lead, spooked by memories of the 2016 race when many thought Hillary Clinton had the race in the bag. (Washington Post

Biden and Donald Trump raised similar amounts of money from Central Massachusetts donors, even though Biden raised three times as much as Trump statewide. (Telegram & Gazette)

Massachusetts seems headed for record-high turnout in the November election as municipal clerks are already busy processing mail-in and early ballots. (Telegram & Gazette) Just over 2,000 of 9,772 ballots cast Saturday came from Fenway Park, where the first day of early voting saw long lines of voters wrapped around the block. (GBH) 

US Rep. Richard Neal spent $5.89 million fending off a Democratic primary challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who spent $2.1 million. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Voters in Milton will be asked to accept the state’s Community Preservation Act on the November ballot, which would add a 1 percent surcharge to the town’s property taxes to fund projects including open space purchases, recreation improvements, historical preservation, and affordable housing. (Patriot Ledger)

Joe Kennedy says his campaign improperly spent $1.5 million on his Senate primary run that was designated for use in the general election. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Developers rescued the moribund Winthrop Center project in downtown Boston by seeking out foreign financing. (Boston Globe

A marijuana products vending machine created by a Massachusetts native is expected to arrive in state marijuana dispensaries in early 2021. (MassLive)

EDUCATION

Dueling protests took place yesterday outside Boston Latin School, with groups supporting and opposing a School Committee plan to make 80 percent of seats available at the city’s three competitive admission exam schools based on geography as well as grades. (Boston Globe

Since the Boston school shutdown in March, thousands of low-income students have been cut off from the dental care that some schools were providing. (Boston Globe

ARTS/CULTURE

In an unusual set up for a food-related event, Wellfleet OysterFest was live streamed this weekend, with celebrity chef guests, and an all-star shuck event.  (Cape Cod Times)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA and Keolis are adjusting commuter rail schedules to allow for social distancing while addressing changing rider demand. (Gloucester Daily Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

In a jaw-dropping account of what seems to be the utterly unpoliced State Police, the Globe’s Matt Rocheleau reports that dozens of officers remain on the force despite being found through internal reviews to have broken laws or committed other misconduct. 

A Douglas woman is accused of assaulting a Vietnam veteran who was expressing support for President Trump. (MassLive)

Tens of thousands of people fear losing their homes as the eviction moratorium ends. (MassLive)

The judicial bench in Western Massachusetts has few female or minority judges. (MassLive)

Probate and Family Court Judge Peter Smola retired this weekend, and reflected back on his time on the bench. (Standard-Times)

MEDIA

The Boston Globe wins an online journalism award for its “Seeking red” series on traffic congestion in the Greater Boston area. 

PASSINGS

Worcester’s Department of Public Works commissioner Paul Moosey dies at 63, after 36 years of working for the city. (Telegram & Gazette)