Thursday, July 5, 2018

MA Coalition Pushes for RCV

A Group of Massachusetts Politicians and Government Reformers wants to change the way Elections are conducted, and it could be looking toward a 2020 Ballot Initiative to do it. Voter Choice Massachusetts is a growing Coalition pushing for the adoption of Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV).

The argument made by Executive Director Adam Friedman in favor of RCV is blunt: "Our politics are dysfunctional," Friedman said.

RCV is a system where Voters can Rank their Candidates: First, Second, Third, or how many determined by State. A Winner is determined when someone gets more than 50% of the Votes. If no one gets 50% in the initial Voting, the First-choice Votes that went to the Candidate with the Least Support will get Redistributed to those Voters' Second-choice Candidate. This continues until the 50% Plus is reached.

Friedman said the result of this system is it changes Politics from "a zero-sum game where various factions battle it out" to one that can be more Unifying and Inclusive, since Politicians have to get Support from a Broader Base of Voters. Friedman said it eliminates the idea of "spoiler" Candidates, in which a Third-Party Candidate is Blamed for allowing a less favored Candidate to win.

"I see it as a commonsense change that gives voters more power and more freedom and also allows candidates to run without being pressured to drop out by others and say wait your turn or demonize them for potentially being a spoiler or hurting a stronger candidate," Friedman said.
For Voters, Friedman said it means, "You can have your favorite but also register support for other candidates besides your favorite."

Bills that would make it easier for Municipalities to adopt RCV and that would establish Statewide RCV were sent to Study by a Legislative Committee, effectively killing them for this year. Friedman said if No Progress is made Legislatively next year, he will consider Launching an effort to put RCV on the November 2020 Ballot for Massachusetts Voters to decide.

"Changing voting is an important thing to do. It's something that's a sacred right everyone has," Friedman said. "We want to make sure people give it full consideration with a public airing of all sides of doing this, so we know there's really strong support once we put it to a vote."

Cambridge, MA, has extensive experience with RCV, having used it for Multicandidate City Council and School Board Elections since 1941. Amherst, MA, Voted in March to begin using RCV for its Town Council Elections starting in 2021.

Maine used it this year for All its Primaries.

Since 2000, 10 other Cities have adopted RCV for Municipal Elections, according to the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center. Some States also use it for Runoff Elections. A handful of Cities adopted RCV, then Repealed it. Several States Passed RCV Laws but never Implemented them.

Last year, the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee voted to include RCV in its Platform. The Platform says RCV "better reflects the aggregate will of the voting population and ensures that no candidate is elected without a true majority of support from their constituents."

Friedman started Voter Choice Massachusetts after Maine Passed RCV in 2016. The Group is still in the Early Stages, Training Volunteers, Speaking around the State and Building up a Mailing List with 11,000 Supporters.

The Group's Advisory Board includes former State Treasurer Steve Grossman, Entrepreneur and Business Leader Diane Hessan, Nobel Prize-winning Economist Eric Maskin, Government Reform Advocate Pam Wilmot, and former Independent Gubernatorial Candidate Evan Falchuk.

Independent Evan Falchuk joins Democratic Party. Falchuk attributed the move partially to Republican President Trump's Election. Falchuk ran with his United Independent Party in the 2014 Gubernatorial Race against Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker. Baker Won the Election by 1.9 percentage points. Falchuk got 3.3% of the Vote. "A lot of people told me they liked me but couldn't vote for me because they didn't think I could win," Falchuk said. "That's a problem." Falchuk said People turned into "strategic voters."

He believes there should be a System where People can Vote for the Candidate they most like without worrying about "wasting" their Vote or about "spoiler" Candidates. "What I love about ranked-choice voting is it makes it so that no one's vote is ever wasted, no one feels their vote is not counted, because you get to vote for who you really believe in," Falchuk said.

Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said her Group supports RCV, particularly for crowded Primaries where someone can Win with less than 30% of the Vote. "It's a centrist system that ensures the person winning has the support of a majority of voters in the district," Wilmot said. Wilmot said RCV Eliminates the "irrationality" in a System where today, for example, if there is One Conservative and Three Liberal Candidates in a Liberal-leaning District, the Conservative may Win because the Liberals Split the Vote. The system can also lessen Negative Campaigning, Wilmot said, since a Candidate does not want to Alienate their Opponent's Supporters.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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