Massachusetts ballot questions: Millions pour into ‘right to repair,’ ranked choice voting debates


With election season in full swing, the organizers behind the two questions on the Massachusetts ballots brought in millions more in campaign contributions in recent weeks.

The Ranked Choice Voting 2020 Committee spent $3 million over the past two weeks, ending with just under $1.7 million in the bank.

More than 300 monetary contributions came in over the past two weeks, and four times as many poured in late September. The donations over the past month range from teachers and retirees in Massachusetts to out-of-state investors, according to OCPF.

Martin Babinec, a millionaire startup investor in upstate New York, donated $50,000. Andrew Balson, founder of the Boston-based private equity firm Cove Hill, donated $200,000. Kathryn Murdoch, co-founder of the Quadrivium Foundation and daughter-in-law to billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, donated twice over the past two weeks, totaling $75,000. She has donated $2.5 million to the campaign this year.

The No Ranked Choice Voting Committee 2020, which had reported no contributions until last month, has a much smaller balance sheet. The committee raised $734.53 in the past two weeks, the largest chunk coming from a $200 donation from a Lynn retiree.

The committee spent close to $1,700 over the past two weeks and ended with $1,600 in the bank. It reported no in-kind contributions.

The opposition is led by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a fiscally conservative nonprofit that has come under scrutiny in recent years for not disclosing its donors.

Ballot questions can quickly become confusing for voters, between the legalese in the drafted proposal and the politically charged summaries in the Massachusetts red book.

“They’re complicated and people don’t know what the details are, and we don’t always know what the potential consequences are, even in ranked choice voting,” La Raja said. “I’m not saying it’s bad, but we don’t know what the consequences are. It’s really unclear that this is where it’s going to have its biggest impact.”

“But how do you vote against reform?” he added. “It’s like apple pie.”

Early voting began on Saturday. As of Monday, more than 1.9 million people, or 41.9% of eligible voters, have applied for mail-in ballots or voted early, according to Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office. Local clerks have received more than 1 million ballots.

The number of ballots returned is equivalent to 29.7% of all ballots cast in the 2016 election, according to Galvin’s office. Galvin said earlier this month he expects turnout to exceed the 2016 presidential election record of 3.3 million votes.

The ballot question campaigns and their marketing experts continue to spend millions promoting their causes.

The Right to Repair Committee spent $4.5 million on advertising with Gray Media alone. The agency spent $4.4 million in TV, radio and digital ads, as well as mailers.

Of the $3 million the ranked-choice voting group spent, $2.5 million went to the New Media Firm for digital and TV ad buys. The firm spent $1.2 million on behalf of the campaign in the two-week period alone.

The committee hasn’t solely relied on digital ad buys. Convergence Targeted Communications, which received $382,000 from the campaign, spent $62,000 on mailers and lawn signs promoting the ranked-choice voting ballot measure.

The ranked-choice voting opponents have reported no digital or TV ad buys. The campaign focused most of its spending on yard signs over the past two weeks, as it did in late September.

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