Op-ed: "Are you tired of partisan politics?"

Piscataquis Observer

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Are You Tired Of Partisan Politics? There are some people who are passionate about politics. They know what they know, and usually, they are not afraid to voice their opinion. They belong to one of the two major political parties, and vote primarily, if not exclusively, for candidates within their party. Most of us, on the other hand, have an opinion on various political views, but we are not as passionate about politics, and don’t get much involved in the political process. We vote for the candidate we like best and hope they win, but don’t get too upset if our candidate loses. After all, nothing ever seems to get done in Augusta, or Washington, so why bother getting involved. If you happen to be passionate about politics and your political views are exclusive to one party, this article is not for you, so don’t bother reading further. For the rest of you, please read on.

I pose 2 questions to you: 1) Why is it that the parties and their candidates can’t, or won’t, get along? 2) Is there anything we can do about it? The answer to the second question is a cautious yes, but it requires patience and strategic planning. Mainers, for example, will have a chance to take a small step to cleaning up the political gridlock in November of next year. More on that in a minute. As to the first question, I believe the primary reason for such political gridlock lies in the primaries themselves. When voters for each political party vote in the primaries, the candidates that usually win are the candidates that appeal to the most extreme vision of that party. To get through the primaries victoriously, candidates seem to make promises to appease the far left, or the far right, of each party. When it then comes down to the general election, voters are left with candidates who are at the extreme ends of each party. It’s no wonder that no matter which candidate gets elected, the celebration of victory is soon suppressed by the lack of anything getting accomplished, as those in the opposing party will do anything to stop policies of the victorious candidate from being enacted.

So what can we do about it? In 2016, Maine voters will have a chance to make an historic change in the way we choose candidates for state and federal elections. It’s called ranked choice voting and it will appear on the statewide 2016 ballot as a citizen­initiated referendum. If successful, it will be implemented beginning with the 2018 election cycle. Here is how it works: If there are more than 2 candidates running for an election seat, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. When the votes are tallied, if there is no majority winner (greater than 50% of votes), the candidate with the least number of first­choice rankings is eliminated. The ballots for this candidate are then reassigned to the remaining 2 candidates based on those voters’ second choices, and the votes are tallied again. In a 3 person race, we would now have a winner with majority (greater than 50%) support in the final round of tabulation.

Why would this process be better you ask? Several reasons come to mind. First, voters don’t have to be tied down to voting for the extremes of one party or the other. Candidates with moderate views, regardless of party affiliation, now have a chance to be elected. Voters will have more choices, and hence, more control of those choices. Furthermore, it will reduce negative campaigning. After all, why continue the mudslinging when supporters of your competitor may see you as their second choice . Finally, it would eliminate the worry or concern that voters have of throwing their vote away to a third, or fourth, candidate and unintentionally helping elect the candidate they liked the least.

Ranked choice voting is not a new idea. It was invented in New England in 1871 and first used in an 1893 election. Ranked choice voting legislation has been introduced in the Maine Legislature since 2001 with growing support among Republican, Democratic and Independent lawmakers. However, partisan politics, as you might imagine, has suppressed the implementation and enactment of ranked choice voting. It’s time that we show our legislators that a change in the way we campaign and elect our leaders is necessary. It’s time for ranked choice voting to become law in the State of Maine, so please join me in helping to bring this meaningful change to our elections. If you are tired of partisan politics as usual, you owe it to yourself, and to future generations, to initiate that change. If you would like to sign a petition in support of ranked choice voting, please attend the Municipal Elections on June 9 at the town office on Morton Avenue in Dover­Foxcroft. A volunteer will be collecting signatures for this petition.

Kevin Chasse, Dover-Foxcroft

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