At today’s public hearing by the Joint Committee on Election Laws, Common Cause Massachusetts testified in support of bills that would lower the voting age for municipal elections, implement ranked choice voting, and allow the state legislature to draw state and federal district lines before municipalities redraw precinct lines.
Common Cause Massachusetts has long supported legislative efforts to change the redistricting process by putting municipal reprecincting after the federal and state districts have been established.
“To best ensure representation, it’s important to rely on the best data available — and that is by using census block data,” said Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, in his testimony in support of Rep. Mike Moran’s H.708, An Act Relative to Reprecincting. “If the legislature is required to follow precinct lines already drawn by local officials, it may not be able to draw maps that best represent communities of interest.”
Common Cause Massachusetts also supports efforts to include more young people in our democracy. In support of legislation that would lower the municipal voting ages to 16 or 17, Foster testified, “The benefits to lowering the municipal voting age to 16 or 17 are many and include increasing voter turnout, especially in local elections which are historically low, creating lifelong civic habits, and strengthening our representative democracy.”
Many studies have shown that 16- and 17-year-olds score evenly with 21-year-olds on questions about political knowledge, tolerance, political efficacy, perceived civic skills, and community service. Several jurisdictions in the United States have already lowered the voting age to 16 for some or all elections — yielding increases in voter turnout, with no discernable negative consequences.
Dev Chatterjee, program and outreach manager at Common Cause Massachusetts, also testified in support of proposals that would allow municipalities to enact ranked choice voting in local elections.
“Ranked choice voting gives voters more freedom to choose candidates based on their preferences instead of their expected electability,” said Chatterjee. “It also encourages candidates to campaign to larger audiences, including constituencies they may have otherwise counted out, because they’ll need to persuade voters to list them as a second or third choice.”
Instead of voting for just one candidate, this legislation would allow Massachusetts voters to rank candidates from first to last choice on the ballot in all primary and special elections for local offices. If voters still want to vote for just one candidate, they still can.
Ranked choice voting is growing in popularity across the country. In 2023, legislatures in 14 states have introduced bills that would implement ranked choice voting. New York City had its first election that used ranked choice voting in 2021.
Click HERE to see the full list of Common Cause Massachusetts legislative priorities.
A recording of today’s hearing is available here: https://malegislature.gov/Events/Hearings/Detail/4610