Most Americans are accustomed to a winner-take-all voting process, making one, decisive choice between a multitude of candidates.
Ranked-choice voting changes the standard methodology. RCV allows voters to rank multiple candidates in order of personal preference, replacing a "plurality winner" system with a vastly different election process that hasn't been widely seen in the United States for some time.
This past year, ranked-choice voting has been having a sort of coming-out party. It was used in Democratic presidential primaries in four states as well as the Nevada caucuses. And referendums instituting ranked-choice voting are on the ballot this fall in five cities and three states — Alaska, Massachusetts and North Dakota.
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Voters are evenly split on whether Massachusetts should become the second state to conduct most elections using ranked-choice voting, a decision they will make in November.
With 36 percent for the switch and 36 percent against it, 28 percent remain undecided in a poll released Tuesday — mainly because they are confused by the alternative election method or haven't yet tried to figure it out.
The numbers don't augur well for proponents of ranked elections, because support for ballot measures tends to fade as Election Day nears. At the same time, there's minimal organized opposition to bringing co-called RCV to the state, giving advocates continued hope of winning over the skeptical or ignorant in the next dozen weeks.
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Massachusetts has dropped its excuse requirements for voting by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic — not only in this summer's primary but also in the general election.
Legislation signed on Monday by Gov. Charlie Baker is significant because it makes Massachusetts among the first states to lock in the ability of all registered voters to cast ballots by mail for November.
While a majority of states have made it easier in at least some ways to vote remotely during the primaries, deliberations across the country about the rules for mail voting in the general election are only beginning to ramp up.
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At a time when the hard-to-find intersection of mailed ballots and election fraud has become one of President Trump's obsessions, 202 envelopes in a town clerk's vault in central Massachusetts may get an unexpected amount of attention.
The ballots were from a local election last week in Grafton, where the people appeared to decide — by just 98 votes — to raise municipal taxes by $4 million to improve schools and local services.
The potential consequences of what's inside the envelopes are as mathematically apparent as the recent presidential polling in many swing states. (Tax hike opponents would have to account for three of every four uncounted votes, a deficit tough but not impossible to reverse.) The reason the votes weren't counted are much less clear, providing only minimal support for a presidential outburst on Twitter.