Article: Beer election demonstrates referendum Question 5: Ranked choice voting

The Franklin Journal

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FARMINGTON - Customers at Tumbledown Brewing ranked their favorite choices Monday during a Ranked Choice Voting beer election.

Voting on beer seems to be a good way for customers to learn about Question 5 on the November referendum vote, Adam Pontius, coalition coordinator for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, said.


The beer election at Tumbledown Brewing in Farmington is one of 19 beer elections being held at breweries throughout the state during September.

People normally rank what they like best, least and in-between so ranking four different beers provided an opportunity for the campaign workers to talk with them and help them under stand the process, he said.


Question 5 will ask Maine voters to establish a ranked choice voting system instead of using a plurality voting system where voters cast a ballot for one candidate and whomever has the most votes is elected.


A ranked choice system allows voters, as with the beer election, to choose and indicate their first, second, third and fourth choice.

In the beer election, 13 votes were cast requiring a majority total of 7 votes to win the election.


During the first round, Tumbledown Red earned the most votes, five, but not enough to win. Artula Pale Ale and Devil's Hop Yard IPA both received three votes each. Dog Star Smoke Stout received two votes.


With the least votes, the Stout was eliminated but those two votes still counted. The second choice on each vote was for Tumbledown Red giving the beer the needed seven votes to win.


The ranked choice system is used when there are multiple candidates, Richard Doughty of Weld said. If the first round does not indicate a majority vote then the ballots are counted again.

Rank choice voting works just like actual runoff elections without the cost and delay, Pontius said.


From 1974 to 2014, there was no majority in nine out of eleven races, Pontius said while he and Doughty discussed a graphic showing Maine candidates who won without a majority.


'Maine has not elected a governor to their first term by a majority since 1966,' according to campaign literature.


The referendum question is a citizen initiative. Pontius is one of a group based in Gorham working on the Ranked Choice Voting campaign. Over 61 thousand signatures were collected to have the referendum put on to the November ballot.


Pontius has worked a year of more on the campaign along with three other full-time employees and two part-time workers. After collecting signatures, they need to campaign and provide education on what it is. The beer elections are being used as one demonstration to help people understand it.

'People seem receptive,' he said. 'It is equally well received across the state. There are as many supporters in Aroostook as York.'


If approved by voters, the ranked choice system would start with elections in 2018, he said. How the vote and recount of votes would work would be up to the Secretary of State. He would have to come up with an implementation plan, he said.


Mainers need to think about whether they want to use this system or not, he said.


For those attending the Beer Election at Tumbledown Brewery, the ranked choice system seemed like a good idea.

It's important for Maine. When there are three candidates, (in our present system) a winner can be chosen without a majority vote, Robin Lee of Farmington, said. That can leave two-thirds of voters unhappy for four years or more.


If a runoff election is held with two days of voting, the voting population is not the same, Paul McGuire of Farmington, said. This way the same people would get to indicate their first and second choices.


It sounds like a more thoughtful process as you think through who you want, Eileen Liddy of Wilton, said.


Your second choice is not too far away from your first choice, Pontius said about the two votes for stout applied to Tumbledown Red. Most choices are not a 180-degree turn, he said.


It also may discourage negative campaigning, he said.


Voters in Portland elected their mayor in 2011 by Rank Choice Voting. Candidates all said they would skip a house with an oppo nent's sign on the lawn. They thought the homeowner had made a decision, Pontius said.

But under this system, they did speak to those homeowners only they focused on themselves. They had a goal to become a second choice on the ballot. It would not behoove them to put down other candidates, he said.


Opponents of Question 5 raise concerns which include things such as a need to amend the Maine Constitution, whether a winner could be chosen from a small number of first place votes, Maine would be the only state using this system and the costs to implement, according to online articles.

By Anne Bryant

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