Ranked-choice voting will be on the ballot in November. Voters are asked to approve a process to elect state officials by majority vote (more than 50 percent). The dictionary says that democracy is “government by the people; especially: rule of the majority.”
It once was that way in the Maine Constitution for state Representatives, Senators and the governor. Not so anymore because the system hasn’t worked well for contests with more than two candidates. Because of near calamity in the 1870s, the state Constitution was amended to replace majority with plurality winners; yet plurality elections continue to produce winners who are not the choice of most voters. At least 50 percent plus one disagree with the result.
A better way is ranked choice. Everyone gets one vote but can rank their choices. With three candidates, the voter can select a first, second and third preference. Last place is eliminated and votes of those whose first choice was eliminated are applied to their second. The candidate now gaining the majority wins.
That’s “instant runoff.” It works the same if there are more candidates and wasn’t feasible without newer technology.
Ranked choice sharply reduces vote splitting (tough decisions made between two favorite candidates) and nobody strategically “wastes” a vote when casting it on an unlikely candidate. That is not confusing to voters. Portland’s past two mayoral races are proof and one election had a field of 15.
Without a change, there remains that nagging definition of democracy indicating a majority selection is best.
Donald Fellows, Lisbon