Amherst League of Women Voters

A Voice for Citizens, a Force for Change

Consensus Question 13

Question 7 in the Massachusetts Leagues' study of the Ballot Question Process asks "Should Massachusetts seek ways to limit the amount of money that can be spent on ballot question campaigns?"

Currently there are no limits to the amount of money that can be donated or spent in support of or opposition to ballot questions in Massaachusetts. In the 2014 and 2016 election cycles all records of spending on ballot questions were broken. Two attempts to regulate ballot campaign contributions were struck down by the courts in 1978 and 1981. In other states thus far, the US Supreme Court has struck down state attempts to limit ballot question spending.

There are measures that could be more vigorously investigated and implemented, such as Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) regulations, limits on out-of-state contributions, and more vigorously enforcing current disclosure laws. Massachusetts could continue to work on constitutional solutions to the widespread and unregulated money in campaigns.

In past elections in Massachusetts, the ballot question campaign that spent the most money did not always win, indicating that voters can distinguish the merits of a question regardless of the level of spending. Some ballot questions have expenses associated with the complexity of the issue or to counter opposition.

Information on Consensus Question 13 is found on p. 15 of the Study Guide. The recent history of spending on Massachusetts ballot question campaigns is reviewed in Section 6.2 of the Study Report.