Letter: In Support of Ranked Choice Voting

The Times Record

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We hold elections to determine the will of the people, but unfortunately, our current system is inadequate.

In 2010 I checked the polls in the governor’s race 30 minutes before voting. My second choice, Cutler, was surging, so I cast my ballot strategically for him, hoping to block LePage. My brother voted absentee weeks before, and was locked in to his vote for Mitchell. Despite the same preferences, we managed to split the family vote.

Our nation’s founders did not imagine two parties, but our voting method pushes inexorably in that direction. In a multi-candidate race, when simple plurality takes all, voters often hold their nose and vote strategically. With imperfect information, many play their hands wrong. Even the victor can lose, coming away without a mandate. There is simply not enough electoral oxygen to support more than two viable parties.

This is not a problem of candidates or platforms, but of methodology. Thankfully, there is a better way to conduct elections, and in Maine we will have the opportunity to choose it this November.

By allowing voters to rank candidates from first to last, ranked choice voting captures a much broader picture of the electorate’s preferences. A vote for a first choice candidate is no longer a vote against a second choice candidate.

This changes incentives for politicians as well, because every step they move up in a voter’s rankings could prove valuable. With ranked choice voting we should see fewer scorched earth campaigns, and more discussion of issues that actually matter to the electorate.

One minor mathematical irony: the measure on our ballots will calculate a winner using an “instant runoff ” method. While I will eagerly support it, I would prefer a “ Condorcet” method, which, while a bit more complicated, would better capture the true preferences of the electorate.

However, since we cannot yet rank our preferences, we must be careful not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. This November I will be voting strategically for my second choice. I hope you will consider joining me in supporting ranked choice voting in Maine.

Charlie Hudson,

Arrowsic

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