So Many Ballot Questions, So Little Time

35 different potential ballot questions were submitted to the Attorney General's office.


Gambling, marijuana, fireworks, whales, and charter schools are just some of the topics that may go before voters on Election Day in 2016.

Individuals and activist groups submitted 35 different potential ballot questions for the 2016 election to the Attorney General’s office on Wednesday. Attorney General Maura Healey will now scrutinize the submissions for constitutionality and any legal hiccups before they move forward in the process. The high number of submissions is not unusual, as it common for activists to submit a variety of ballot questions with different kinds of language in the event that one of their proposals is deemed unconstitutional.

Some of the highlights from the filings:


Former Worcester School Committee member Donna Colorio is sponsoring a ballot question that would pull Massachusetts out of the national Common Core education standards. The language of the ballot question would restore Massachusetts education standards to what they were prior to the adoption of Common Core in 2010.

The Massachusetts Charter Public School Association submitted a ballot question that would allow for up to 12 new charter schools in the state. The law, technically not a lifting of the state cap on charter schools, would prioritize the placement of charter schools in underperforming school districts and places with long waiting lists for charter schools. If the question makes it onto the ballot, it will be one of the most contested in 2016. A nasty fight between teachers unions and charter school advocates is guaranteed.


Two groups looking to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Massachusetts are vying for a spot on the 2016 ballot. One, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, is similar to the successful marijuana legalization efforts we’ve seen in Washington and Colorado. Their ballot question creates a legal and regulatory structure for marijuana. The other group, Bay State Repeal, is less structured in their three submissions to the Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General, an opponent of marijuana legalization, has to rule on the constitutionality of the proposals and it is unlikely that both will appear on the ballot at the same time.

On Wednesday, one of the trade groups for medical marijuana dispensaries threw its weight behind the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The Commonwealth Dispensary Association said in a statement that they believe the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has the most “responsible” ballot question of the ones submitted.  

Public Records

Secretary of State William Galvin submitted paperwork for a ballot question that would reform the state’s public records laws. Galvin’s move to place the question on the ballot is as move to pressure the legislature to act as much as it is statement from his office on transparency. Galvin has said for months that he wants to see the legislature pass significant reforms this session to the the state’s outdated and toothless public records laws.


A person named Eugene McCain submitted a ballot question that would increase the number of slot parlor licenses in the state to two. Efforts to reach McCain were unsuccessful. Plainridge Park Casino won the lone slot parlor license and began operations on June 24.


Former State Representative Rich Bastien submitted a ballot question to legalize the sale and use of fireworks in Massachusetts.  Bastien’s ballot question would legalize the sale of most kinds of fireworks, including bottle rockets and firecrackers, currently illegal in the place where we go to get most of our fireworks: New Hampshire. Under the proposed legalization of fireworks, regular stores would be able to sell boring sparklers while all the fun stuff would be sold through specialty stores.


Self described “citizen attorney general” Richard Maximus Strahan submitted a ballot question on Wednesday that would ban the issuance of a fishing license to anyone using “any kind of fishing gear for commercial purposes that is known to historically cause the entanglement of any whale or sea turtle.” Strahan

The complete list of potential ballot questions is here.