To the editor:
Negative political attack ads hurt our elections, turning off many citizens who cynically proclaim they don’t vote anymore.
Fortunately, electoral reform could effectively reduce the influence of negative campaigning and special interest attack ads. Although it is already used in cities across the country and in governments across the world, ranked choice voting was most recently used in Portland to successfully elect their mayor and will be on the ballot in November 2016 as a referendum to reform all of Maine’s statewide elections.
How does ranked choice voting reduce the impact of negative campaigning and special interest attack ads? Simple. Because candidates have to compete for both first and second choice rankings, no candidate wants to offend any other candidates’ supporters by enabling hostile negative attack ads that are represented by or associated with their candidacy. Can you imagine a voter awarding a second choice to a candidate who has openly attacked their favorite candidate? Elections would become cleaner and more issue-focused.
In municipal elections that have used ranked choice voting, voters have noticed a significant reduction in negative campaigning. In an April 2014 “Civility Study” commissioned by the nonpartisan group FairVote, voters in the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota and Cambridge, Massachusetts reported 10 to 15 percent reductions in all aspects of negative campaigning strategy – ranging from the overall campaign conduct to the candidates’ restraint in criticizing and negatively portraying their opponents.
I urge fellow Mainers who desire more civil campaigns to join me in supporting ranked choice voting.
John Andrews Scarborough