Define (Y)our Local: Massachusetts Elections

Jason Ahuja

Hopefully everyone reading realizes that Tuesday is Election Day. With such a day comes quite a few different things to consider even beyond(!) the contentious, comical, and fortunately critical presidential race. I say fortunately because it really is quite the opportunity to contribute somewhat to our collective trajectory. Nowhere is this more prescient than when we look at local questions that will affect our great state of Massachusetts. If this isn’t your great state it is everyone’s sincerest hope that you participated at home, unless we disagree with your political leanings. There are four important ballot considerations that we should all be up to date on for Tuesday. The subjects of these questions include gambling, charter schools, farm animal containment, and marijuana. What fun subjects, right? Told you this was a privilege. So without further adieu:

Question 1: A question hinged on the expansion of gambling, unsurprisingly the least active ballot issue. A Thailand-based real estate developer with Massachusetts ties wants to open a slots parlor in Revere, a town north of Boston I just now discovered. State law only allows one slots parlor at the moment and voting for this question would allow the issuing of a second slots parlor license.

The opposition to this question has only spent $50 which highlights how slim of a chance this question has of passing. Both polls and local votes have shown little to no support.

Question 2: With nearly $20 million collectively spent by advocates and opposition Question 2 is the hottest question on the ballot. Currently, Massachusetts law holds the number of charter schools at 120; “yes” on 2 would raise that number by 12 schools each year.

Proponents of this bill have advanced the standard arguments that are often used when moving to privatizing education. The choice to escape failing school districts, the outdated and underfunded public system is a failure, etc., etc. One can assess the validity of these claims on their own. I feel as though they have merit in many situations but because of the foundational nature of education, not to mention the history of inequity, there is a higher standard we need to uphold.

Opponents include the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and close to 100 school committees and their argument is a salient one. We should elevate our school system from the bottom up, not allow a chosen few to escape what they view as a sinking ship. Help those that have traditionally been left behind and reinvest in the public.

Question 3: Animal rights is at the center of this question that would prohibit the sale of animals held in ways that prevent them from lying, standing, or moving around freely. This measure is mainly focused on requiring cage-free eggs and ending the use of “gestation crates” for pigs.

Detractors include the nation’s largest pork lobby, as well as groups and individuals who posit that this measure would raise the cost of produce, the brunt of which would burden the poor.

Polls show that two-thirds of likely voters will vote “yes” on this measure. In my book,  it’s a win for all living things.

Question 4: High time that we get to the most popular issue tomorrow. The issue of legalizing, for those over 21, the limited “possession, use, distribution, and cultivation” of marijuana.

Advocates for the measure believe that a regulated system will do a better job of mitigating the harms of marijuana than arrests and prisons. I applaud those that are standing up and fighting to end a War on Drugs that has been such a spectacular failing. The criminalization of marijuana has disproportionately shattered minority communities and we know that punitive laws do not help forward public health.

Detractors include big alcohol and folks who are ignorant of history, or worse.

These four questions are ones that speak to much larger issues, both based in policy and ethics. We should embrace our power, however seemingly slight, to vote. Realize that there are other ways of change. And acknowledge that just because we operate in the system, does not mean that we must act as if we are of the system.

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