Op-Ed: Another View: It’s an insult to call ranked-choice voting too complex

Portland Press Herald

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Gordon Weil’s crusade to defeat Question 5, the proposal to establish ranked-choice voting in Maine, has led him to write a Sept. 30 Maine Voices whose headline calls the proposition “costly, complicated (and) undemocratic.” His arguments, however, are inaccurate, demeaning to Maine voters’ intelligence and almost incomprehensible.

Ranked-choice voting is not complicated; it’s just new to some Mainers (despite successful use in Portland’s mayoral elections). That’s why ranked-choice voting supporters created a statewide education campaign to show voters how it will work.

At their orientation parties, attendees vote via ranked-choice ballots on their preferences among four or more similar items (appetizers, beers, etc.). At receptions I attended, none of the 25 to 40 attendees found the concept complicated. As one guest commented, “We make choices like this all the time.

Weil also falsely wrote that ranked-choice voting supporters claim “that using it will change voter behavior and make us get along better politically.”

The actual claim is that, under ranked-choice voting, candidates will be less likely to indulge in gratuitous mud-slinging because, by doing so, they would risk antagonizing opponents’ supporters and losing potential second-place votes that could help them win.

As for the costs, let me quote Terry Hayes, Maine state treasurer, who has said: “Question 5 proposes the most cost-effective and efficient process to conduct runoffs, when necessary, to restore majority rule in Maine elections. The cost to implement this decision is estimated to be roughly $550,000, significantly less than the alternative – actual runoff elections,” which Weil advocates. Note: This sum is less than Weil’s claimed cost of $910,000.

Weil’s claim that ranked-choice voting is “undemocratic” is an insult to the intelligence of Maine voters who are tired of hearing officials elected by pluralities called illegitimate. If a majority of Mainers chooses ranked-choice voting to fix that, it will be democratic.

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