The second round of 13,374 signatures needed to qualify for the Massachusetts ballot in November was due July 1. Proponents of the Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative submitted over 25,000 unverified signatures, and proponents of the “Right to Repair” Initiative submitted over 26,000 unverified signatures.
The Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative, sponsored by Voter Choice Massachusetts, would enact ranked-choice voting (RCV) for primary and general elections for state executive officials, state legislators, federal congressional representatives, and certain other offices. As of 2019, one state (Maine) had implemented RCV at the state level. Nine states contained jurisdictions that had implemented RCV at some level. Another four states contained jurisdictions that had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in local elections. If the Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative qualifies for the ballot, it will be the first statewide initiative that did so through the collection of electronic signatures, which were ruled permissible after the campaigns behind four circulating petitions settled a lawsuit with state officials over the use of electronic signatures.
The Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Initiative, sponsored by Right to Repair Massachusetts, would give motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities access to mechanical data in a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics or telematics system. Tommy Hickey, the director of the campaign, said, “Our independent shops are increasingly facing the prospect of having limited or no access to diagnostic and repair information now that automakers are restricting access through rapidly expanding wireless technologies in vehicles not covered under current law.”
Sponsors of two other initiatives—the Nursing Homes Medicaid Ratemaking Initiative and the Beer and Wine in Food Stores Initiative—did not submit signatures before the July 1 deadline.
The Massachusetts Senior Coalition, which sponsored the Nursing Homes Medicaid Ratemaking Initiative, cited the coronavirus as the cause for not being able to collect the required signatures. The campaign said, “There is no doubt that this outcome was affected by the unique and difficult circumstances under which we were forced to collect signatures.”
On June 28, Cumberland Farms, the sponsor of the Beer and Wine in Food Stores Initiative, announced that it would be suspending its campaign. Matt Durand, chairman of the ballot question committee and the head of public policy at Cumberland Farms, said, “It’s become clear that leading an eight-figure ballot measure campaign is not a prudent course of action at this particular moment in history. Make no mistake: the issue of safe and fair competition in the beverage alcohol marketplace remains a top legislative priority for Cumberland Farms and other food stores, just as it remains an important question of public policy for this Commonwealth.” Cumberland Farms said it would try to put the initiative on the 2022 ballot.
The power of initiative is indirect in Massachusetts, which means the Massachusetts General Court must consider any successful initiative proposals. Of the 10 initiatives cleared for circulation in September 2019, four initiative campaigns submitted the first round of 80,239 signatures on November 20, 2019. The Massachusetts General Court did not act on any of the indirect initiatives before the May 5, 2020 deadline, so the campaigns needed to collect a second round of 13,374 signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Between 1996 and 2018, about 54 percent (21 of 39) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots in Massachusetts were approved, and about 46 percent (18 of 39) were defeated.
Ballotpedia has tracked 25 other initiative campaigns that suspended signature gathering activity due to the coronavirus pandemic, 15 lawsuits over signature deadlines and requirements, and three other initiative campaigns that have delayed their efforts to 2022.