To the Editor:
We have the power to change voting in Maine.
In Maine about 37 percent of voters are independent, more than either of the major parties.
We have many elections with more than two candidates on the ballot. As a result in nine out of the past 11 elections, our governor has been chosen by less than 50 percent of the voters – and so he hasn’t had the support of the majority.
The Legislature has tried and failed to pass a remedy for this situation. In November of 2014, a nonpartisan group called the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting started collecting signatures to put ranked choice voting on the ballot in 2016. This method, sometimes called instant runoff voting, gives voters an opportunity to vote for their first choice and then, if they choose, for their second and even third choice in a field of many candidates. In other words, they rank their choices. If a candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes, the count stops there. But if the candidate with the most votes wins less than 50 percent, a run-off count takes place. The candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and the second choices on those ballots are counted. If they bring one of the other candidates to more than 50 percent, we have a winner who was the first choice of many voters and at least the second choice of the majority.
Here’s an example from a close three-way race for governor. In 1974, James Longley got 39.7 percent of the vote, George Mitchell got 36.8 percent, and James Erwin got 23.4 percent. With the ranked choice method, if half or more of Erwin’s ballots checked Longley as their second choice, he would have won with over 50 percent. If, however, 3/5 or more of Erwin’s ballots marked Mitchell as their second choice, then he would have won with over 50 percent.
In three-way races, many voters choose a candidate they think has a good chance of winning rather than their true first choice. Ranked choice voting would encourage them to vote their conscience and give them an option to make a second choice as well. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting has already collected over 60,000 signatures and will be collecting signatures at polls across the state during the June 9 municipal elections. If successful, ranked choice voting will be used beginning in 2018 if more than two candidates run for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Maine Senate, and Maine House elections. I encourage you to follow this grass roots issue and support ranked-choice voting.