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Baker pans ranked voting; will it matter with 1.8M votes in?

October 28, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, a summary of Ballot Question 2 on the Nov. 3 Massachusetts election ballot known as a "Ranked Choice Voting" law is displayed in Marlborough, Mass., in a handbook provided to voters by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File)
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FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, a summary of Ballot Question 2 on the Nov. 3 Massachusetts election ballot known as a "Ranked Choice Voting" law is displayed in Marlborough, Mass., in a handbook provided to voters by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File)
1 of 3
FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, a summary of Ballot Question 2 on the Nov. 3 Massachusetts election ballot known as a "Ranked Choice Voting" law is displayed in Marlborough, Mass., in a handbook provided to voters by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File)

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker says he’s not a fan of ranked choice voting, which is on the ballot in Massachusetts. But with more than a third of registered voters already casting ballots, the Republican governor’s opposition may not make much of an impact.

After months of steering clear of the debate around a statewide referendum that would transform the way voting happens in Massachusetts, Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito issued a joint statement Tuesday urging a “no” vote on Question 2.

“At a time when we need to be promoting turnout and making it easier for voters to cast their ballots, we worry that Question Two will add an additional layer of complication for both voters and election officials, while potentially delaying results and increasing the cost of elections,” they said.

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What’s unclear is how much of an impact their opposition will have. More than 1.8 million people — more than a third of the state’s registered voters — already have voted early in Massachusetts, Secretary of State William Galvin said.

Ranked choice voting, a system already being used in Maine, gives voters the option of ranking candidates in order of their preference: one for their top choice, two for their second choice, and so on.

If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated. Voters who ranked the eliminated candidate as their first choice would have their votes counted instead for their second choice. The process repeats until one candidate receives a majority of the vote and wins.

Jesse Mermell, a Democrat who co-chairs the campaign pushing for ranked choice voting in Massachusetts, criticized Baker and Polito for calling it complicated and said that argument is “insulting to Massachusetts voters.”

Polls suggest a close race between the “yes” and “no” camps in Massachusetts. Supporters have poured millions of dollars into the effort to get the referendum approved.

If approved, ranked choice voting wouldn’t start until 2022 — the same year Baker would face reelection if he decides to run for a third term as governor.

Ranked choice voting does have some bipartisan support in the state: Former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick and former Republican Gov. William Weld both back the change.