Radical campaign and election reform ballot measures will appear on the ballot in Massachusetts, Florida, and Alaska.  

These measures are signs of a larger trend driven by left-wing activists to drastically transform elections. They include “jungle primaries” that place all candidates in one primary, eliminating parties from the equation, and potentially leaving general election voters to decide between candidates who are very similar. Also on the table is ranked choice voting and free speech-chilling disclosure requirements that violate citizen privacy.  

Read more from ATR’s 2020 State Ballot Measure Guide here.

These measures ultimately are likely to lead to higher burdens for taxpayers and less accountability for elected officials. Let’s take a look…   

Massachusetts voters will decide on Question 2, a state constitutional amendment that would enact ranked-choice voting for primary and general elections for state executive officials, state legislators, federal congressional representatives, and certain county offices.  

Ranked-choice voting is a method in which voters would rank all candidates for an elected position – of every party – according to their preferences. If a candidate received greater than 50% of first-preference votes, that candidate is automatically declared the winner.  

However, if no candidate receives that threshold of votes, the candidate receiving the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. The second-preference choices indicated on ballots are then tallied as voters’ first-preference choice in the following round.  

This process is continued until a candidate wins a simple majority (50% +1) of the vote. If there is a tie for last place, the candidates’ support from earlier rounds will be compared to determine who should be eliminated.  

Currently, Massachusetts uses a plurality voting system (each voter casts their vote for a single candidate; the winning candidate is who wins the most votes) and semi-closed primaries (independent voters may vote in the partisan primary of their choice, but party affiliated voters must stay in their party).  

In a ranked-choice voting system, an individual’s vote for their clear first choice can end up not mattering and their vote might end up being cast for a candidate they ranked far below their first choice. In fact, many voters choose to only list their top two or three candidates, especially when there are candidates for who they would never consider voting.  

Unfortunately, simply choosing to omit these candidates could hurt a voter’s chances of their ballot being counted in future rounds of tabulation through ballot exhaustion. In turn, candidates are elected that were not the first choice of the majority of voters, but only a majority of all valid votes in the final round of tallying. It’s possible that a winning candidate will fall short of an actual majority in a ranked-choice voting system.  

Florida’s Amendment 3 would scrap the state’s current closed primary elections in favor of a “jungle primary” system for state legislators, the governor, and cabinet (attorney general, chief financial officer, and commissioner of agriculture). In a jungle primary, all candidates – regardless of party – compete in one primary. The top-two candidates with the most votes would advance to the general election.  

This dysfunctional system is so radical that both the Republican and Democratic parties in Florida oppose it and would likely result in greater burdens for Florida taxpayers. In primarily solid Republican or Democrat areas, for example, voters in the minority party could be deprived of a general election vote choice because turn-out for the majority party was so high. Making the primary election the far more important and decisive election promises to confuse voters.  

While the Massachusetts and Florida ballot measures are a recipe for disaster, Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2 takes the cake.  

Ballot Measure 2 would replace standard party primary elections with open top-four primaries for state and federal offices and establish a ranked-choice voting system for the general election. In other words, all candidates – regardless of political party – for a particular elected office will appear on a single primary ballot. The top-four candidates will advance to the general election where ranked-choice voting will be used to determine the final winner.  

In addition to changing the electoral system, Ballot Measure 2 could also curb free speech in the electoral process. If the measure is passed, the personal information of individuals who donate over $2,000 in campaign contributions will be disclosed. Consequently, individuals might withhold donations to their preferred candidates or causes to evade public retaliation.   

These upheavals threaten to cause chaos in elections and make it more difficult for hard-working taxpayers to speak out and hold their politicians accountable.