Thursday, July 18, 2024

I have read the proposal to change the municipal proportional representation ballot – limiting the number of choices that each voter may make to 15.

I consider this a basic change to election process and not an appropriate action for the Election Commission. You have the lawyers, but it seems to me unlikely that such a change would be in the authority of the Election Commission. It is trampling on voters’ basic rights under our voting system.

You have done some homework and found that not many people vote for more than 15 candidates. Even so, that low percentage of the voters do have their rights. Furthermore, it is possible that, if there continue to be a larger number of candidates, voters may wish to vote for more candidates in the order of their choice. If a voter thinks of the candidates in groups, for example as incumbents or newcomers, the numbers can add up pretty quickly.

I understand the constraints of the present format, which was devised when the PR count was computerized. In fact, filling out the PR ballot in the present format is cumbersome.

So I suggest the following: Return to the format of the pre-computer count era, with the voter putting the appropriate number next to each candidate the voter wishes to support. No, I am not suggesting going back to the Longfellow School for a hand count – though that would be much more fun and community based. With all the universities and techie geniuses in Cambridge, there must be someone who can develop a computer program that could read that ballot by machine. 

Such a solution would be the best for voters casting their ballot and more democratic than limiting voter choice.

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. 

Alice Wolf

Alice K. Wolf is a former state representative from the 25th Middlesex District in Cambridge, as well as a former city councillor and mayor for Cambridge. She works as a senior adviser at Mass Advocates for Children.