Last month, we talked about the curious sources of funding for the group pushing a referendum (Question 2) to institute so-called ranked-choice voting in Massachusetts. The Yes on 2 campaign was funded almost entirely by out-of-state donors combined with a handful of wealthy liberal activists in the state. The fundraising was spectacularly successful, generating literally 3,000 times more cash than the small, local group that was trying to raise public awareness and defeat the referendum. Perhaps the lack of local cash support should have sent them a clue. Despite their massive fundraising advantage, Question 2 failed at the ballot box by double digits and a radical restructuring of how state residents vote was averted. And you won’t believe what the measure’s supporters blamed for their defeat. (Boston Globe)
The campaign to bring ranked choice voting to Massachusetts seemed like it had a lot going for it: endorsements from the deep-blue state’s top elected Democrats, an enthusiastic base of support, a roughly 3,000-to-1 fundraising advantage over a last-minute opposition campaign.
Pre-election polls even showed the ballot measure, Question 2, with a slight lead.
But when it came down to it Tuesday, the initiative more than a year-and-a-half in the making could not overcome public skepticism about overhauling the state’s elections at a time when voting — and, perhaps more importantly, campaigns — across the country had been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With nearly 99 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was rejected by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
When asked how they could have failed while holding such a daunting funding advantage, Secretary of State Bill Galvin (a cheerleader for the measure) had one explanation at hand. He said, “the idea behind it is a reasonable idea, but it’s complex, and many voters didn’t really grasp what it would mean for them.”
Allow me to translate that for you. The Massachusetts Secretary of State said that the voters failed to pass ranked-choice voting because they were too stupid to understand the proposition. The Chairman of the Board for the Yes on 2 campaign reiterated the same idea, saying, “we were competing to make sure we could educate enough people about what rank choice voting is.”
That’s apparently their attitude at this point. We failed to educate all of you ignorant peasants and now you’ve shot down our referendum. Another Yes on 2 campaign board member tweeted that he wished they’d been able to show people that the scheme wasn’t so confusing.
Wish you all could've come to a beer-ranking party. Or a donut-ranking party. You'd see that ranked choice voting isn't confusing, & provides for better-supported and less-extreme outcomes. Regardless I'm so proud & thankful to have worked with so many people to promote RCV. 1/3
— Mike Zarren (@mikezarren) November 4, 2020
Yes, because all of those ignorant people are so easily confused, right?
Or perhaps… just maybe… people understood this scheme perfectly well and didn’t like the smell of it. Perhaps they understand that there is no rule saying that you have to have a majority to win the election and even the founders anticipated and wrote about how to decide races with multiple candidates. The only exception is the electoral college, where you eventually need to come up with a majority somewhere, but other than that your state can allow as many candidates as they like. And it’s possible that the voters understood that this system robs the votes of less mainstream candidates in the second round, giving them away to others who were not the preferred candidate of the voter.
If you need any more reasons to oppose this plan, just look at who supported it. “Squad” member Rep. Ayanna Pressley carped at the voters after the measure failed, complaining that Massachusetts is “progressive in theory but less so in practice.” Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey supported it also, while the state’s moderate Republican governor opposed it. In fact, almost all of the measure’s support came from Democrats. Take from that what you will, but at least for now, standard voting will remain the rule of the day in the Bay State.