Opinion: Town Council Has Mandate To Implement Ranked Choice Voting For November Election

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Jennifer Page

A December 24 Gazette article described that it is unlikely that ranked-choice voting, mandated in the Amherst charter, will be able to be implemented for the next town election in November of this year. According to the article, special state legislation is required, and it is unlikely that will happen in time. Town Manager Paul Bockelman is quoted as saying, “At this point we need special legislation from the state to implement. Chances are slim to none that will happen.”

I urge the Town Councilors and the Town Manager to press on with implementing ranked choice voting this year. When the Amherst charter was approved by voters on March 28, 2018, it had to go through the same process in order to be implemented, and that process took exactly three months. The charter passed on 3/28/18, and three months later Governor Baker signed it into law on 6/28/18. You can view the timeline for how the bill moved through the state legislature on the state’s website.

To sum up:

3/28/18 Amherst voters approve the charter

4/2/18 Amherst Select Board votes to put an article on the Town Meeting warrant calling on the Legislature to allow a special election on 11/6/18.

4/30/18 Amherst Town Meeting approves the article

5/9/18 The bill filed by Representative Goldstein-Rose and Senator Stanley Rosenberg is referred to the House committee on election laws

6/25/18 The bill is enacted by the house and the senate

6/28/18 The bill is signed by Governor Baker

9/4/18 Amherst town council primary election held

11/6/18 Amherst town council general election held

Representative Mindy Domb and Senator Jo Comerford have committed to moving ranked-choice voting through the process as quickly as possible. If we put continued pressure on Representative Domb and Senator Comerford (to do what they have already stated they are fully in support of) to move this through the state legislature, and if the town plans now, assuming it will pass, then ranked choice voting can be implemented this November. Indeed, the Town Council has a mandate from Amherst voters to make it happen, even if it’s hard and even if there are some uncertainties.

Jennifer Page is the parent of an APRS student, a UMass Amherst employee, and former Town Meeting member.

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