One year go, I was a fresh-faced senior in Ted Jordan’s AP government class. I was only beginning to trace governmental problems to voting. Mr. Jordan took us to Washington, D.C., where we saw exactly one independent. Maine is lucky to have Senator King’s strong independence, but he is a rarity. The sad truth is that even in Maine it takes power and name recognition, like Angus King has, to win without party backing. The good news is that this problem is fixable.
Portland implemented ranked choice voting last election with unequivocal results. Exit polls revealed widespread satisfaction. The campaign decreased negativity, discouraged strategic voting, and led residents to research more. Maine’s single-choice system structurally favors establishment candidates. Voters are forced to factor into consideration viability, and this endangers freedom of expression in voting. Nobody wants to waste a vote on a clear loser, so party candidates rule. It is incredibly hard to be an independent politician in this country, as I learned while joining Eliot Cutler’s campaign for my senior transition project. Eliot was widely seen as a spoiler, and I saw him attacked, not as misguided, but as a spoiler.
At Georgetown University, in D.C., the problems of our voting system are clear. In 2016, we can preserve Maine’s independent tradition and improve political discourse. The political arena is an open one, regardless of popularity. Voters should support candidates who share their views, not just those who can win. I proudly advocated for ranked choice voting to defend the electoral freedom of speech.