BOSTON — Hot-button ballot questions related to immigration and tax policy in Massachusetts were still too close to call late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.
More than three hours after polls closed and with almost half of votes counted, only the ballot measure relating to dental insurance had a considerable lead in any one direction.
Question 1 and Question 4, which respectively seek to impose a 4 percent surtax on annual personal income above $1 million and repeal a new law that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for Massachusetts driver’s licenses, were both running tight as the night wore on.
On Question 1, “yes” votes which would impose the surtax led with 52% of the vote around 11:30 p.m. Campaigns for and against the ballot question were reserved when asked for comment Tuesday night, saying it was too close to call. Both, however, said that their campaigns must have “resonated with voters.”
“We are very confident, and it’s clear that the campaign we ran resonated with voters because a significant number of people came out to vote that it wasn’t the right time for this amendment,” No on 1 campaign spokesperson Dan Cence said.
Andrew Farnitano, spokesperson for the Yes on 1 campaign, said he was proud and felt “strong” as votes came in. Shortly before midnight, Fair Share Massachusetts Campaign Manager Jeron Mariani issued a statement that suggested surtax supporters are comfortable they will ultimately come out on top.
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“We are working to ensure that every single vote is counted, and confident that when they are, Massachusetts voters will have chosen a fairer tax system, and secure funding for our schools, colleges, and transportation infrastructure,” Mariani said.
At the Yes on 1 party in downtown Boston, Rep. Jim O’Day got the crowd into a frenzy, saying 100% of the votes in Worcester were in with 60% of them in favor of the surtax ballot question.
“We’re heading in the right direction, there’s no question about that ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “Be patient, I feel the energy.”
Most of the ballot questions have been the subject of expensive campaigns, with millions of dollars worth of ads making it to Massachusetts’ airwaves and mailboxes. The opposition to Question 1 spent a total of $13,518,519.82 and supportive campaigns spent twice as much, $27,929,767.66, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance reported on Election Day.
Secretary of State William Galvin said Monday that voters were coming to the polls by-and-large for the ballot questions, in an election where the governor and other statewide races generated low interest.
Another ballot measure that brought voters to the polls, Question 4 to maintain the law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses, was running 53.8% in favor and 46.2% against with 35% of the votes counted Tuesday night.
“We’re feeling really good right now,” Yes on 4 spokesperson Nicole Caravella said. “We have put together hundreds of volunteers throughout this campaign. We knocked over 30,000 doors, and we’re seeing really positive results across the commonwealth right now. So, we’re feeling good. We’re still anxiously awaiting the final result, but we’re in a good place right now.”
The only ballot question with a considerable lead either way Tuesday night, the AP reported 71.6% percent of votes in favor and 28.4% of votes against Question 2 seeking to add new requirements for dental insurer spending.
The ballot question would require companies to spend at least 83% of premiums on member dental expenses and quality improvements, instead of administrative expenses. Supporters say it would implement a medical loss ratio system similar to the one currently in place for medical insurers.
The Yes on 2 campaign released a press release around 11 p.m., claiming a “decisive, landmark victory” for the initiative.
“Together, we put patients first over profits,” Meredith Bailey, president of the Massachusetts Dental Society, said. “Dental patients deserve the same consumer protections as medical patients, and we are hopeful that the better dental benefits that the people of Massachusetts will soon experience will spread to patients across the country.”
The vote count on the ballot initiative which would increase the number of alcohol licenses a single company could hold while gradually reducing the number of licenses specifically allowing the sale of all alcoholic beverages including liquor — Question 3 — was also still close late Tuesday.
With 40% reporting, 54.4% of voters cast their ballots in favor of the question.
If Question 1 passes, it will be the only ballot question — and the first one in 22 years — that actually changes the Massachusetts Constitution. The last ballot question to do so, passed in 2000, made it illegal for imprisoned felons to vote.
Petitions aiming to amend the Constitution need to pass through two sessions of the Legislature and must be approved by 25% of the legislators in each session before even making it to the ballot.
The so-called millionaire’s tax was first introduced in 2015, after which advocates battled for the 4% surtax for three years until it was shot down by the Supreme Judicial Court in 2018 before it could make it onto the ballot. The Legislature passed the Constitutional amendment again in 2019 and 2021 to put the question to voters on Tuesday.
The New Bedford Light provides in-depth analyses of the Nov. 8 elections and what lies ahead after voters made their voices heard.