Election Day and a Guide to MA Ballot Questions

Sofia Maietta

News Editor

 

Next Tuesday, November 6 will mark Election Day, as voters across the country head to the polls. For Massachusetts residents, early voting began on October 22 and will end on Friday, November 2. Massachusetts residents voting via absentee ballot should be sure to mail their ballots back to their city or town hall as soon as possible, as all ballots must be received by the time the polls close on Election Day in order to be counted. For those Massachusetts residents who will be traveling to vote in person, all polls in the state will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

For Massachusetts, there are three binding statewide questions appearing on the ballot this year. Voting yes on the first ballot question would create a law limiting how many patients can be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other health care facilities. If passed, the proposed law would take effect in January of 2019. Voting no on question one would make no change to the current laws.

Advocates for a yes vote claim that both patient safety and quality of care will improve if nurse-patient ratios are enacted because nurses will be able to spend more time with each patient. Proponents also argue that this law could force hospitals, especially those owned by wealthy corporations, to put more money towards direct patient care. Conversely, opponents of this proposed law claim that it would override nurses’ professional judgement and would not lead to better patient care. They also assert that patient wait times, especially in emergency rooms, would drastically increase. Moreover, opponents maintain that complying with these nurse-patient ratios would be a significant financial burden, especially for smaller hospitals which may be forced to close as a result. As smaller institutions often serve the state’s more vulnerable communities, opponents of question one argue that it would disadvantage the most needy in Massachusetts.

The second Massachusetts ballot question would create a citizens commission to consider amending the United States Constitution with regards to campaign finance law and potential regulations to campaign contributions and expenditures. Essentially, this amendment would seek to overturn the Citizens United case. Voting no on this question would not establish a commission.

Advocates for a yes vote maintain that, contrary to the decision in Citizens United, corporations should not have the same Constitutional rights as human beings. They contend that Citizens United has led to unequal representation for the average citizen, who cannot donate the large sums to campaigns that corporations can. Advocates for a no vote on question two argue that establishing a commission to write a report on this issue is a waste of both time and money, because Citizens United is settled law determined by the Supreme Court. Amending the Constitution requires support from two thirds of the Senate and House, as well as ratification by 38 out of 50 states. Thus, opponents maintain that a Constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United is near impossible to achieve, and that creating a commission would therefore be a waste of time and resources.

Voting yes on the third and last ballot question would keep in place a law signed in 2016 which prevents discrimination against transgender people in public places, such as bathrooms, restaurants, and stores. A no vote would repeal this law.

Proponents of question three claim that since this law took effect, there has been no increase in safety incidents in public places, and that the law protects transgender people who often face discrimination and harassment. On the other hand, advocates for a no vote on this question claim that sexual predators are able to gain access to places like women’s locker rooms and bathrooms because of this law. They also assert that there is no way to distinguish between actual transgender people and men simply looking to exploit the law.

Out of the three ballot questions, the first has received the most attention in the weeks before the election and seems to be the most controversial. A recent Boston Globe poll found that 59 percent of likely voters said they are against nurse-patient ratios and will vote no. This comes as a sharp shift in opinion, as voters polled in September were 52 percent in favor of the ballot initiative, compared to only 41 percent now.    

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Photo by Hui Li ’21.

SGA recently held  a voting registration campaign to encourage younger generations to vote.

 

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