October 27, 2006

The Massachusetts Ballot: Question 2

The Massachusetts Ballot: Question 2: “Cross-endorsement”

For reference, here again is the web page with voter information on the Massachusetts ballot questions.

The gist of question 2 is this:

The proposed law would provide that if a candidate were nominated by more than one party or political designation, instead of the candidate’s name being printed on the ballot once, with the candidate allowed to choose the order in which the party or political designation names appear after the candidate’s name, the candidate’s name would appear multiple times, once for each nomination received.

In other words, if a candidate can get nominated by multiple political parties, the candidate would be allowed to appear multiple times on the ballot - once for each party.

So, I could be a Republican and a Libertarian and a member of the “Best Candidate Party” (If I were able to secure those nominations) and this would give me the privilege of appearing 3 times vs. the other candidate’s one time. Votes for all three of those categories would be combined, and the combined vote would be the candidate’s total. Same as if I were, say a Democrat, plus a Green Rainbow candidate, plus a Green party (somehow).

Proponents say this gives the voter more power, because you can “send a message” to the candidate by voting in a particular slot. This would supposedly keep them aware of why you voted for them. It’s an attempt to shift power away from the two major parties.

My Opinion


I am voting No on Question 2.

I agree with the notion that more competition is good, and that voters should have plenty of power. But this proposal seems to me to increase confusion, not competition. If there are people out there who think they can gain support by complicating the ballot, I think they need to put their thinking caps on and go back to the drawing board. Haven’t we already learned our lesson about confusing ballots? coughFlorida 2000cough

I want candidates to work hard telling us what their ideas are for leadership, and they should have an idea of what their strong points are before they get on the ballot.

The new law would also allow you to vote multiple times for the same candidate, and this would not invalidate the ballot. The candidate still is supposed to only get one vote, so the ballot reader software has to be modified to get that right. More complexity in an a system we already have concerns about. As a designer of systems, I like to see simpler systems that are harder to fail. This new system seems not just complex, but needlessly complex.

I welcome and encourage an opposing opinion here, but this question really struck me as odd. Maybe someone could explain to me how what I see as a more confusing ballot would change elections for the better.
Posted by James at October 27, 2006 9:57 AM
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Comments

I'm probably with you on this one as well Burkie. I think the "information communicated to the candidate" is less valuable than the candidate getting into office. I think voters would just largely be confused by the extra names and not know what to make of it.

Posted by: Chuck S. at October 27, 2006 10:59 AM

I could go either way on this one but am leaning towards yes. My only reservation is that it isn't necessary and doesn't particularly correct any specific injustice. OTOH, I think it could be helpful to third-party candidates, and I'm very much in favor of anything that will put a dent in the two-party system.

One of the less-discussed problems of the 2000 election in Florida was overvotes. THere was at least one ballot (I saw on TV) where the voter filled in the arrow next to Gore's name, then also wrote Gore's name in big letters the write-in space and circled it and underlined it. THis vote wasn't counted because it was an overvote, even though the voter's intention was pretty clear.

Voting Yes on #2 could slow down vote-counting and make it more labor-intensive, but I question whether the extra cost involved would be significant.

As for confusing voters like in Florida - I realize that was the opposition's main argument against #2. I consider this another scare tactic and am not at all sure that it's valid. The infamous Buchanan-favoring butterfly ballot in ONE Florida county was caused by a (perhaps deliberately) confusing layout that could have baffled anyone who isn't used to a two-page ticket on a butterfly ballot (IIRC, the confusion was based on the ticket spanning two facing pages, making it very easy to punch the wrong hole).

Posted by: Julie at October 27, 2006 11:17 AM

1. New York has had this system for years, and has not had the resultant "confusion problems." So that argument kinda doesn't hold up in reality.

2. I don't understand why you think this would allow you to vote for the same person more than once? When I go to the polls on Nov. 7th there will be several candidates for Governor (Carcieri, Fogarty, and most likely a Green Party candidate, maybe a Socialist Party candidate, a Cool Moose candidate, etc). I can still only vote for one of them.

3. More than just "sending a message" (which I think politicians will ignore), voting a certain party allows them to claim a percentage of the vote, which then allows them to get things like matching funds for campaigns and automatic ballot registration.

Posted by: DG at October 27, 2006 11:20 AM

I don't understand why you think this would allow you to vote for the same person more than once?

From the description: If a voter voted for the same candidate for the same office on multiple party or political designation lines, the ballot would remain valid but would be counted as a single vote for the candidate on a line without a party or political designation.

Posted by: James at October 27, 2006 11:28 AM

Thanks for the explanations. The "pro" arguments I was reading were unclear, and your reasons make a little more sense to me.

However, I still see this as treating a problem peripherally rather than directly. If third parties are having trouble getting matching funds, maybe we need to change those laws.

Posted by: James at October 27, 2006 11:33 AM

I'd like to see the political parties come off the ballots all together. The ballot should just list the candidates' names under the office they are running for. If someone needs to have the party under the candidates name, then they don't deserve to be in the voting booth.

Posted by: woneffe at October 27, 2006 11:13 PM

You would not be able to vote for the same candidate twice. You have the opportunity to vote for one candidate per party.

Also, to whoever posted the following:
"I'd like to see the political parties come off the ballots all together. The ballot should just list the candidates' names under the office they are running for. If someone needs to have the party under the candidates name, then they don't deserve to be in the voting booth. "

This is for the primary elections ONLY, you HAVE to vote per party, otherwise a primary election is pointless; maybe you don't deserve to be in a voting booth either.

Posted by: Dan C at November 2, 2006 3:56 PM

You would not be able to vote for the same candidate twice. You have the opportunity to vote for one candidate per party.

I already addressed this above. In fact, there is specific language in this initiative petition that states that a ballot should still be valid in the case that a person who is listed twice on the ballot gets two votes form a confused voter. I'm not saying it counts as two votes for the candidate -- all I'm saying is that the question says a ballot is still valid with two votes (if you prefer, we can call them 'marks') for the same person. It is supposed to be counted as one vote in that case. Again, here is the specific language in the summary:

If a voter voted for the same candidate for the same office on multiple party or political designation lines, the ballot would remain valid but would be counted as a single vote for the candidate on a line without a party or political designation. If voting technology allowed, voting machines would be required to prevent a voter from voting more than the number of times permitted for any one office.

See the summary for more details.

They're very specific. If you vote for your candidate by mistake under the Republican Party and Guanophrenia Party, it will get counted as one vote for your candidate under no party.

Yes, you can vote for Fred Q. Politician twice. It will count as one vote. Some of us still use paper ballots.

Secondly, Dan C is wrong when he says:

This is for the primary elections ONLY

There are parts of this question that do effect the primaries. However, it should be clear that this question affects the general election as well.

The proposed law would provide that if a candidate were nominated by more than one party or political designation, instead of the candidate’s name being printed on the ballot once, with the candidate allowed to choose the order in which the party or political designation names appear after the candidate’s name, the candidate’s name would appear multiple times, once for each nomination received. [...] The ballot would allow voters who vote for a candidate nominated by multiple parties or political designations to vote for that candidate under the party or political designation line of their choice.

The word "nominated" means that the nomination process (including the primary) is over. You're looking at a ballot for the general election.

This initiative talks about a person having their name appear multiple times on a ballot. That can't possibly apply to the primary. In the primary, they might appear on multiple ballots if this law were to pass. Their name might later appear multiple times on one ballot in the general election. So, does affect the general election as well as the primary election.

See the full text of the question, especially Sections 3 and 4.

Dan C., I appreciate your desire to join in the discussion, but I don't appreciate the snarky remark implying that another contributor might not be fit to vote. Especially considering that you appear to be wrong on the point of criticism. Feel free to participate in the future. I appreciate snarkiness more if it is accompanied by accuracy. But less snarkiness and more humility is also good, if you'd rather go that route.

Posted by: James at November 2, 2006 8:46 PM

I would like to see voting changed so that you number the candidates according to preference. You put a 1 next to the person you want the most, a 2 next to the person you want if you can't have your first choice, ... This would effectively take control from the 2 party system. This way people could vote for a third party candidate and still vote for who they want secondly if there aren't enough votes to elect this third party guy.

If C.M. is drawing votes from Repuplican K.H., C.M. would be Democrat D.P.'s best friend. My way, people could vote for C.M. without risking D.P. being elected as a result.

How to tally the votes (remember a computer is going to do the work): All the first choice votes are counted and whoever got the least number of 1's is out. His ballots then have the 2nd choice votes applied to the candidates who are left. Whoever is least then is out and the remaining candidates get his supporters 2nd preference votes (and where his votes are already 2nds the 3's then kick in). I don't think voting this way is very confusing to the voter. Computer folks are used to this kind of stuff.

Posted by: Wendy at November 3, 2006 5:28 AM

Funny you should mention that, Wendy. I've been wishing for years that there were some way to rank your preference. They do something like this in Australia:

http://www.australianpolitics.com/voting/systems/preferential.shtml

Posted by: Julie at November 3, 2006 9:15 AM

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