I see Maine as a state filled with independently minded citizens who are not easily (or happily) stuck into political categories, such as Democrat, Republican or Green Independent. In fact, 36.7 percent of registered voters in Maine are not enrolled in a political party! At least one former governor won with less than that percent of the vote (King with 35.4 percent in 1994). Our current two-party-favored voting system (plurality voting) doesn’t suit us very well, it seems, given that most of our major elections include candidates from more than two parties.
Have you ever gone to the poll and voted for a candidate who wasn’t your top choice, just because you thought he/she had a better chance of winning? Are you tired of hearing attack ads rather than innovative, intelligent platforms and policies? Do you wish that your state and federal elected officials were approved of by at least 50 percent of Maine voters (even if they weren’t your top picks)?
There is another way, one that is affordable, easy to understand and simple to implement: Ranked Choice Voting. Portland is successfully using it to elect its mayor. And you can vote for it in November 2016, when it will appear on the ballot as a citizen’s initiative.
Here’s how it works. When you fill out your ballot, you are asked to rank the candidates (first, second, third… easy!). When the polls close on Election Day, first place votes are counted by a voting machine or by hand; if someone gets a majority of first-place votes, that candidate wins, just like today. But if nobody gets a majority of first-place votes, then the person with the fewest votes is eliminated and an “instant run-off” happens among the remaining candidates. Every ballot still counts in the run-off, just as if every voter is returning to the polls to vote again. If your first choice candidate is still in the running, your ballot continues to count for that candidate. If your first choice candidate is out, your rankings are used to determine who you prefer among the remaining candidates. Exactly like an actual run-off election, but much quicker, cheaper and hassle-free for you and the election officials.
It’s high time that Maine’s election system reflects our independent nature. We will be more satisfied with our ability to vote our minds, while also setting an example for the rest of the country. Learn more about Ranked Choice Voting and consider supporting it next November.