Vargas Touts ‘Restoring Faith in Democracy’ at State House Ranked Voter Choice Day of Action

Haverhill state Rep. Andy X. Vargas testified before the Housing Committee on a bill he co-filed on housing reform May 14, 2019. (Courtesy file photograph.)

Haverhill state Rep. Andy Vargas was among the Beacon Hill policymakers and activists who met at the State House Tuesday to celebrate progress on ranked choice voting efforts and highlight bills that would allow municipalities to enact the voting reform at the local level, and legalize the process statewide.

“There could not be a more important time in American history since the civil rights era for democracy reform issues,” Vargas told the State House News service when speaking about the importance of education reform.

Ranked choice voting would allow voters to rank multiple candidates in order of preference. Then when the election is tallied if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, an instant runoff occurs. In the runoff, the candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated and those ballots are then redistributed to the voters’ highest-ranked remaining candidate. The process repeats until a candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote and is declared the winner.

One version of the bill would enact ranked choice voting in all elections except the presidential election. That would include county, state government, and Congressional elections, in both the primaries and general elections. Voters would be able to rank as many or as few candidates as they want, and the secretary of the commonwealth would be responsible for making sure voting machines are prepared. The bill calls for the reform to take effect in the September, 2022 state primary.

The other version would make it easier for cities and towns to enact ranked choice voting for local elections. It would allow municipalities to adopt ranked choice through an ordinance, bylaw, or ballot measure. Currently, municipalities can only do this by charter commission or home rule petition, which must be approved by the state legislature.

Organizers said they are hoping for a hearing on the bills this fall, and lawmakers said this is about improving confidence in the election system.

Summed up Vargas: “It’s about restoring faith in our democracy, that every single vote counts and that everybody can be a candidate.”

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