Public participation in state politics is near an all time low, with serious consequences for the quality of our democracy and the ability of our elected leaders to make well-informed decisions.
According to the Massachusetts Elections Division, in the 1960 state elections, 92 percent of registered voters participated — an all time high. Since then however, it has steadily slipped, falling to its lowest point in 2002 when only 56 percent voted.
A related problem is that so few of our state elections are contested. In 2002, 68 percent of elections were uncontested, ranking Massachusetts second to last (just behind South Carolina) in the number of competitive elections in the U.S.
When combined with low turnout in primaries, lack of competition results in an elite group making decisions in September — when most citizens aren’t paying attention — about who will run in mostly uncontested elections in November!
A referendum question on the ballot in November proposes an election law reform to address both these issues. The Ballot Freedom initiative would make it possible for voters to unite behind a smaller party’s platform, but cast their vote in coalition with a major party’s candidate.
If passed, this “open ballot” approach would give voters — regardless of their political affiliation — a chance to vote their values, while avoiding wasting their vote on a candidate who can’t win. Giving new political parties more options will make our elections more competitive. Giving voters more choices will stimulate more citizen participation.
For more info visit: http://www.massballotfreedom.com/