It’s hard to believe that we have to start getting serious about elections again, but, in fact, 2016 is just around the corner.
Maine ballots in 2016 will all contain an important initiative: Ranked Choice Voting for Maine officials in primary and general elections for both the Maine and U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as for Governor. By voting in favor of this initiative we will finally be assured that the people elected to represent us will be elected by a majority (50 percent plus 1). Maine elections are currently won by a plurality, and, because three and four-way races are not uncommon in our state, the winners of 9 of the past 11 gubernatorial races have failed to receive a majority vote. Some races have been won, in fact, with less than 40 percent of voter support and this has been true for Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.
Ranked Choice Voting, also referred to as an “Instant Runoff,” will apply whenever there are more than two candidates. While traditional Runoff elections do provide a majority vote for one candidate, they are extremely costly, effectively disenfranchise overseas and military voters and can drag on for months.
Ranked Choice now operates in numerous constituencies in the U.S.. In 2011 Portland, Maine elected its mayor using this system. Everywhere it has been used negative campaigning has been significantly reduced because candidates become concerned with not alienating voters for whom they might be a second choice. Much of this negative campaigning has been sponsored by special interest groups with plenty of money to spend on ads, so Ranked Choice Voting will also help to get big money out of politics.
Ranking is not a foreign concept to us; we rank things every day. Which is the best orange juice, which next best, which one almost as good? Ninety-four percent of Portland voters said ballot design and instructions were easy to understand. The claim that ranked choice voting is too complicated to be understood by all the voters insults the electorate.