Election Center

Massachusetts voters reject RCV in surprise Election Day upset

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With more than 90% of the votes counted in Massachusetts, it appears that the initiative to implement Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) for future elections has been rejected by a majority of voters in the Bay State. 

Tracking this race over the last month, The Maine Wire noted that polls were tightening heading into the final week, showing the measure leading by 5-10 points. In the end, Bay State voters rejected RCV by a 10 point margin, with 55% voting “No.” The “Yes on 2” campaign conceded last night after polls closed in Massachusetts.

Interestingly, it is likely that many more votes were cast on this question than for the Presidential or Senate races. Since these contests were all-but sewn up for Democrats the moment the polls closed, Bay Staters saw their decision to potentially upend the state’s voting system as distinctly important.

What makes this race a bonafide upset is the dramatic disparity in fundraising and organizational strength between the campaigns, dealing yet another blow to the myth that “money buys politics.”

Proponents raised over $10 million. By contrast, opponents raised less than $5,000. That would peg the “Yes on 2” campaign raising over 2,000 times more cash than the “No” side. The “Yes on 2” campaign spent more than $7 per “Yes” vote while the “No on 2” campaign spent less than a penny per “No” vote. 

Cash for the “Yes” side came largely from national organizations like “Action Now Initiative” and “4 Score 7” that have pushed untested electoral reforms like ranked-choice voting around the country, including this year in Alaska. Voters there were also subject to millions of out-of-state dollars from these groups, but also soundly rejected RCV.

Maine Policy Institute conducted numerous interviews and meetings with media outlets in Massachusetts to warn people of the dreamy platitudes commonly used by proponents to sell RCV. Armed with substantial research and analysis of the issue, opponents in the state were able to alert thousands of potential voters on the pitfalls of this failed voting experiment. In the end, Bay Staters were skeptical of a voting system that relies on discarding ballots in order to achieve its phony “majority.”

Maine Policy also helped to launch a coalition of affiliated nonprofits across the nation—ProtectMyBallot.com—to raise awareness of the cross-party opposition to ranked-choice voting. A late-in-the-game statement by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker opposing the measure also likely helped to turn the tide.

Yesterday, voters in Massachusetts and Alaska saved themselves from the extra headaches felt in jurisdictions across the country, including Maine, related to voter confusion, depressed turnout, and discarded ballots inherent in ranked-choice voting.

This begs the question: What could those deep-pocketed activists from New York and Texas have done for the people of Massachusetts with that $10 million and thousands of volunteer hours?

About Nick Murray

Nick Murray, of Cornish, currently serves as Policy Analyst with Maine Policy Institute, writing, researching, and bringing Mainers together over the issues facing the state. Previously, he served as Outreach Coordinator, planning events to spread the word about Maine Policy's work to new audiences around Maine.

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