Column: Rooks wrong on ranked-choice voting

Central Maine

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Doug Rooks misses the point entirely about Question 5 on the November ballot, as evidenced in his recent column (“Ranked-choice voting no real solution,” Aug. 4).

Question 5 changes the way we elect Maine’s leaders to give voters more voice and more choice in our democracy. It shifts power away from special interest lobbyists with big money by leveling the playing field for all candidates. It empowers voters, and it results in politicians who are elected more broadly, so they are more accountable to Maine people.

While some political operatives and pundits may not see the value in a nonpartisan reform that improves the political process for all of us, the vast majority of Maine people do. That’s why Question 5 is broadly supported by Democrats, Republicans, independents, Greens and Libertarians alike.

Your voice matters more with a ranked-choice ballot. You never have to vote for the “lesser of two evils” when there is another candidate you really like. You have the freedom to vote for the candidate you like best without feeling like your vote is “wasted,” and without helping to elect the candidate you like least.

Question 5 is not a silver bullet for all of the challenges our democracy is up against these days, but it’s not small potatoes either, and it’s certainly no “gimmick.” It’s something we can do now to improve campaigning and governing in Maine. The time for party leaders and lawmakers to fix a system that isn’t working, as Rooks suggests, has come and gone.

By giving voters the power to rank candidates for public office, Question 5 encourages politicians to reach out to voters who don’t share their party affiliations and ideologies in search of second choice rankings necessary to build majority coalitions and win ranked choice voting elections.

Both of us have run for office multiple times. We’re not intimidated by a reform that would make us work harder as candidates to reach more voters. In fact, we think it would help us, and all of Maine’s elected officials to be better leaders.

Rooks argues that Question 5 will open the door to independent and third-party candidates to run for public office. That door has been open in Maine since Jim Longley was elected as Maine’s first independent governor in 1974. Question 5 simply accommodates this reality in general elections, and it gives primary voters more voice and more choices in choosing their party’s nominees, too.

The two major parties can respond to the presence of independent and third-party candidates in general elections by fighting their very existence, or adapting to increased voter choice. The rules governing our democracy should be written with the best interests of voters in mind, not political parties.

In that spirit, let’s vote “yes” on Question 5 this November to level the playing field and give voters more voice, more choice, and more power in our democracy. We all have a responsibility to vote to make the system better for the next generation.

Dale McCormick of Augusta is a former Democratic member of the Maine Senate and state treasurer. She now serves on the Augusta City Council. Les Fossel of Alna is a former Republican member of the Maine House of Representatives. Fossel was a candidate for the Maine Senate in 2014.

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