Letter: "A Good Idea Whose Time Has Come"

Lincoln County News

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You might have heard about the effort to put Ranked Choice Voting on the Maine ballot in 2016. If you have a chance to sign the petition supporting this question going to the voters, please do, and when you see it on the ballot in November of 2016, please vote yes. Here’s why.

Ranked Choice Voting is a good idea that will make our election results more accurate and more democratic. Our current system works well when there are only two candidates. Whoever wins, wins with more than 50% of the vote, and is the person that most voters want to elect.

However, as soon as you add a third candidate, the system has the potential to deliver a winner that most voters do not want. In Maine, where third parties and independent candidates are more common, we are all too familiar with the concept of “spoilers” and “strategic voting.” The problem is that a third candidate can split up the votes of the majority of voters who are mostly like-minded, resulting in the win going to the person the majority of voters want the least. Hence, voters are stuck in the position of either voting their conscience and risking this undesirable result, or not voting their conscience (voting strategically) to avoid it. Third party and independent candidates are labeled spoilers because of this unfortunate result of our current system.

Ranked Choice Voting solves this problem with one simple rule: The candidate that wins, must win with more than 50% of the vote. If you have an election where no candidate gets more than 50%, you drop the lowest scoring candidate and have a runoff election between the remaining candidates. You do this as many times as necessary until one candidate has the support of the majority of voters.

Sounds great, but all those elections would be expensive and time consuming. That’s where the “ranked” part comes in. Rather than coming back to the polls, voters vote once, and rank the candidates in order of preference. If there are candidates you don’t like at all, no problem - just don’t put them on your list. This works just like runoff elections, without the hassle. Think of it like this: If your first choice remains in the race, you would just vote for them again, so there’s really no need to come back to the polls to reaffirm that choice. If your first choice came in last and was dropped, you’d vote for your second choice, so if you’ve already made your second choice known on your single ranked choice ballot, no need to come back. And if your second choice gets dropped, you’ve already made your third choice vote. One ballot is all it takes. This is why Ranked Choice Voting is sometimes also called “Instant Runoff Voting.”

So there it is. A simple reform that will make our democracy work better, free voters to vote their conscience, and make it easier for more independent and third party candidates to take part. Many cities, including Portland, already use this system with great results. If it passes, Ranked Choice Voting would apply not only to all federal (with the exception of the presidency) and state races in Maine, but to the primaries as well. This means that voters will also have more choices and a greater say in who the parties choose as candidates. As a state of independent thinkers who don’t like to be limited to two choices, Maine has a chance to lead on this issue. I hope you will join me in supporting the Ranked Choice Voting referendum.


April Thibodeau

Newcastle, Maine

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