Portland Press Herald
Common sense would lead us to believe that our elected leaders should have majority support and that their decisions and viewpoints should reflect the ideals of a majority of Maine people. Unfortunately that’s not often the case. In fact, over the last 11 gubernatorial elections here in Maine, nine were decided by a plurality – not a majority. How does this happen?
Oftentimes, this results from having more than two candidates during the election. Typically, a third-party candidate will share similar views with one of the two major-party candidates. What results is an election in which the least favorable candidate can actually win with a minority of the votes. There is a potential remedy for this dilemma that is currently in the works here in Maine. It’s called ranked-choice voting, or RCV.
What is RCV? Assume there’s a three-way gubernatorial race; instead of voting for one candidate at the polls, voters can rank the candidates in order of preference. Assuming none of the candidates wins a majority of votes, an instant runoff occurs and the candidate with the least amount of support is eliminated. If your first choice is eliminated, your support is transferred to your second choice, so that your vote is not wasted. This process continues until a majority has been reached.
RCV could have some wonderful side effects, such as forcing candidates to engage with everyone, including people who candidates might assume would not vote for them. It would make the use of negative campaign ads a dangerous choice for candidates because of the off chance that they might alienate the votes they may need later. RCV would be a large step toward fairness and civility for our electoral process.