Op-ed: "Maine's Election Future"

Ellsworth American

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During the four terms I served in the Maine Senate, I became concerned that legislators were becoming increasingly unwilling to work cooperatively to advance necessary or good legislation. It seemed to me that special interests were having too much influence. Those special interest groups were not exclusively PACs or other big money groups. Often, they were political parties or small, energetic, inflexible groups of voters. As a result, too many legislative ideas were defeated not because of their content but because of which side of the aisle they came from.

I have always thought good ideas are good ideas no matter who thought of them, and good ideas that help Maine should be implemented.

Mainers from across the political spectrum: Democrat, independent, Republican, have taken up the mantle for election reform as an important tool to help fix these problems. Recently, I joined dozens of others who worked to collect the necessary signatures for a citizen initiative to implement Ranked Choice Voting. Together we presented over 70,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office to secure a place on next year’s November ballot. I urge you to become familiar with this initiative.

Ranked Choice Voting — no matter how it may be characterized by its opponents — is simple. You mark your ballot ranking the candidates you like in order of preference. The counting process is straightforward too. It works just like a runoff election. The only difference is you don’t have to go back to the polls. It’s cost-effective, time-effective and precisely designed for multi-candidate races. That makes sense.

Ranked Choice Voting makes sense for a number of other reasons, too. Ranked Choice Voting restores a basic tenet of our democracy: winners of elections receive the majority of the votes. In our last 11 gubernatorial elections, nine winners have been elected with less than 50 percent of the vote. Could the absence of majority support be a reason for the increasing gridlock and hyper-partisanship in Augusta?

Also, Ranked Choice Voting can restore fairness and return inclusion to voters in Maine, where it seems a segment of our voters are disenfranchised for supporting a third party or an independent candidate. With Ranked Choice Voting, one can support the candidate of his or her choice without fear of having that vote inadvertently split the vote, thus helping the voter’s least preferred candidate be declared the winner.

Consider this, why would a candidate risk bashing his or her opponent when doing so might alienate potential supporters who consider that candidate a reasonable second choice? Voters say they don’t want negative campaigning. Yet in our current system we are mired in it because it works! Mainers deserve better and Ranked Choice Voting would create a climate for more meaningful conversation about the issues and job qualifications for the elected office.

Frankly, at stake is the very integrity of our political system. We are facing a number of high-stakes problems that demand real leadership and accountability. Our future prosperity as a state demands a better system — a system where our elected officials receive the support of the majority, a system that discourages negative campaigning and a system that encourages thoughtful common sense governance of all. Ranked Choice Voting will accomplish this. For more information, please visit www.rcvmaine.com.

Dennis S. Damon is a former four-term state senator from Hancock County. He resides in Trenton and can be reached atdsdamon@yahoo.com or 460-0001.

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