Letter: "We need 'Instant Runoff' voting"

The Current

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Does Maine have an election challenge? Imagine 15 candidates running for one office, mayor of Portland. Over the last 40 years in Maine, only two governor’s races have been won by majority vote. Maine has a problem. Too many candidates? No. A primitive method for counting ballots.

Since 1941 Cambridge, Mass., has been using Instant Runoff balloting. Other cities including St. Paul, Minn.; San Francisco; Telluride,Colo.; Takoma Park, Md.; and now Portland, Maine, are using Instant Runoff balloting.

It works and it’s simple. No run-off elections are required. The only change is that voters have the opportunity to mark a ballot with their first choice, and their second choice and third and more, if they wish.

On election night, after the first choice votes are counted, if no candidate receives 50 percent or more of the votes cast, the candidate with the fewest votes (already a loser) has his/her first choice votes removed from the count. Those voters’ second choice votes are added to the remaining candidates’ totals. This continues until one candidate has more than 50 percent approval.

What happened when Portland had 15 candidates for mayor? Michael Brennan, Portland’s current mayor, was elected using Instant Runoff balloting.

It was simple. One of the benefits is a reduction in negative campaigning. Although attack ads work, too often they keep the issues from being discussed. Wise candidates realizing that they might come in second in a multi-candidate election will not attack an opponent when s/he may need some of the attacked candidate’s second choice votes to achieve 50 percent approval.

Imagine an election where only the issues are debated, not an opponent’s alleged stupidity.

John Andrews


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