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editorial

State’s ballots are bound up in non-binding questions

Do local voters really need to spend time deciding whether to create a world government? Not really. So Massachusetts needs to rethink its policy that allows advocacy groups to clutter the ballot with frivolous, non-binding questions, measures that may have contributed to the outrageous three-hour delays at some precincts last week.

It takes as few as 200 signatures to put a non-binding “public policy question” on a local ballot. In many parts of the state, voters had to wade through two or more of them. That’s in addition to the three statewide ballot questions, which were binding.

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Many of the non-binding questions were undoubtedly well-intentioned. In many districts, a question asked voters to weigh in against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. But it’s harder to say the same about some past questions, like the the world-government vote in Cambridge and Boston in 2010, or Pittsfield’s referendum the same year on whether the state should rewrite its definition of public nudity to exclude women’s breasts.

Still, voters want to take their job seriously. That means reading the proposals, which many encountered for the first time in the voting booth last week, and making a decision. Multiply all that reading time by thousands upon thousands of voters, and the non-binding questions added a lot of needless delay.

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