Editorial: "Cast your ballot for ranked choice voting"

Village Soup Newspapers: Camden Herald, Courier-Gazette, Republican Journal

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In November 2016, Maine residents will take to the ballot box to decide if we should change the way we cast votes.

If ranked-choice voting is approved, Maine residents voting in elections for U.S. and state senators and representatives, as well as for governor, would rank candidates from one to three in their order of preference. The candidate with the most votes would win the election.

Only twice since 1974 has Maine elected its governor with more than 50 percent of the vote, and both times that happened, it was the re-election of an incumbent governor for a second term, according to the League of Women Voters of Maine.

Ranked-choice voting legislation was introduced in the Maine Legislature when Independent Angus King was governor and again when Democrat John Baldacci was governor. It has been introduced since Paul LePage took office with growing support from Republican, Democratic and Independent lawmakers, according to The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting.

In 2008, members of the League of Women Voters of Maine began studying possible solutions to restore majority rule, eliminate vote-splitting and give voters more power, according to The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting website. In 2011, the League endorsed ranked-choice voting through a consensus process that involved its membership statewide. In 2013, the League convened a working group of civic leaders and legal scholars that developed language for this citizen initiative. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting began collecting signatures in October 2014 to get the measure on the ballot.

We believe Maine should follow the path of the city of Portland, which elected its mayor in 2011 by ranked-choice voting, and allow this into our ballot booths. Turnout in that election was reported to be 40 percent higher than projected and the winner was elected with 56 percent of the vote in the final round. A total of 41 percent of voters thought there was less negative campaigning, 45 percent felt more inclined to vote for their favorite candidate and 39 percent did more homework on the candidates.

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting cites many benefits to ranked-choice voting. They include:

Restores majority rule. Ranked choice voting ensures that the candidate with the most votes and the broadest support wins, so voters get what they want.

More power for voters. Your voice matters more with a ranked ballot. You never feel like your vote is “wasted.” If your favorite candidate can't win, your vote counts for the candidate you ranked second.

Eliminates vote-splitting. Ranked choice voting gives you the freedom to vote for the candidate you like the best without worrying that you will help to elect the candidate you like the least.

Reduces incentives for negative campaigning. Candidates are encouraged to seek second-choice rankings from voters whose favorite candidate is somebody else. You are less likely to rank as your second choice a candidate who has issued personal attacks against your favorite candidate

More choice for voters. Ranked-choice voting levels the playing field for all candidates and encourages candidates to take their cases directly to voters with a focus on the issues.

Both 2008 presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, have voiced support for ranked-choice voting, saying it “will lead to good government because voters will elect leaders who have the support of a majority. Elected leaders will be more likely to listen to all.”

With voter approval in November 2016, Maine would become the first state in the nation to adopt ranked-choice voting. Let's become the role model for conducting better, cleaner elections.

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