Letter: "Support urged for new voting system"

Tri-Town Weekly

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I am writing in support of ranked choice voting, a reform to our state’s electoral process that will be presented as a referendum question on the November 2016 ballot.

If you’ve never heard of ranked choice voting, here’s a brief explanation. Instead of voting for just one candidate, voters rank candidates in order of preference. After the polls close, rounds of tabulation begin to determine a winner. If your first preference does not receive enough support and is eliminated after a given round, your vote is transferred to your second preference. This process takes place in a single-day election to determine the winner with a majority of support.

Ranked choice voting has been used successfully in municipal elections across the country, including Portland. Voters have not had a problem understanding the change. In fact, in exit polling conducted on the 2011 Portland mayoral election, over 94 percent of surveyed voters said the ballot design and voting instructions were “easy to understand.”

With a ranked choice system, candidates have to compete for first and second choice rankings, so they cannot afford to run negative, polarizing campaigns. Instead, they have to work hard to appeal to moderate voters beyond the base of their party. With a ranked choice voting system, campaigns would therefore become more civil, more positive and issues-based. And a candidate would not be able to “steal” an election when opposing votes are split among multiple candidates. 

The referendum in November would propose that ranked choice voting be used in both primary and general elections on the state and federal levels. As a result, candidates with extreme positions and uncompromising attitudes would fall by the wayside. Moderate candidates with an appreciation for the best ideas from both parties and a capability to build broad coalitions of support would be the most successful under this system. Most Mainers want moderate leaders who put good ideas over politics. And they want their vote to count. Ranked choice voting just makes sense. 

And check out www.fairvotemaine.org for more information on ranked choice voting and opportunities to get involved with this movement.

Bonnie Walstrom


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