Representative government is based on government officials being selected by a majority of voters. Majority rule sounds good and fair to me. Unfortunately, when there are more than two candidates vying for a position, votes can be split such that majority rule is replaced with minority rule. In Maine, our elected officials often win with less than 50 percent of the votes. This doesn’t sound good and fair to me.
Looking at the past 40 years of gubernatorial elections in Maine, only two governors have been selected by a majority of voters. Being committed to living in a society where government represents the majority of its constituents, I see this as a BIG problem. Minority rule has increased the divide between the two major parties, leading to gridlock and hyper-partisanship in Augusta and Washington.
Restoring majority rule can be tricky. Limiting our choices to two candidates would solve the problem, but our democratic principles would take a hit, eliminating our ability to consider a broad range of qualified candidates. Likewise, we could force a traditional runoff race between the top two candidates from an initial election. However, not only would this require an expensive second, separate election, but if a substantial number of voters do not return to the polls we continue to threaten the ideal of majority rule.
Fortunately this is a problem that is not that hard to fix. Ranked choice voting (RCV) offers a viable, less expensive, and faster and more democratic solution. It does not require another trip to the polls and maintains the integrity of a single election. It empowers voters with a full range of meaningful choices by reducing “the spoiler effect” and the fear of a “wasted vote.” It requires that the successful candidate is selected by a majority of the voters. Simply put, RCV allows you to demonstrate your opinion on the full slate of candidates by ranking the candidates who best represent your views in order of preference. You do not have to rank candidates who do not represent your views. During the first round of vote counting, your top choice candidate gets your vote. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the candidate with the least number of first choice rankings is eliminated and the ballots for that candidate are reallocated based on second choice rankings. This pattern of eliminating the candidates with the least amount of support, and reallocation of next ranked choices, is continued until one candidate emerges with a majority of support.
We need ranked choice voting. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “I don’t want to waste my vote,” or “Don’t vote for X, because that is really a vote for Z.” What a poor way to express our right to vote and our right for fair representation. RCV provides a better alternative.
Ranked choice voting has already made great headway in Maine. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, a nonpartisan campaign working to implement ranked choice voting for all federal and state elections in Maine, has been circulating a petition since last November to go on the ballot in 2016. Over 60,000 Mainers have already added their names. This petition warrants your consideration. At the upcoming June 9 municipal elections, Scarborough voters will have an opportunity to add their names to this petition. Go to the polls and express your right to vote. Afterward, look for the representative from the Committee as you leave the voting booths. It is a great opportunity to ask questions about RCV, to learn how it works and to understand what it can offer our elections. Your signature will help put the question of RCV on the ballots in 2016. Consider helping and doing your part.