Portland Press Herald: We don't need another vote on voting

The issue has been decided. We don’t need to vote on this again.

Click here to read the editorial on the Portland Press Herald's website.

"Maine voters have twice gone to the polls and backed ranked choice voting, the election reform that lets people indicate a preference for a candidate if their favored candidate can’t win.

The Maine Republican Party is making a $400,000 bet that they didn’t really mean it.

The party claims to be close to gathering enough signatures to get the issue on the November ballot, and will be making a push to get their petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office by June 15. 

That’s no easy task, given the COVID-19 restrictions on social interaction. There will be no in-person state convention to circulate petitions; no June primary election at which to collar politically minded voters on their way out of the polls; and even supermarket parking lots will be challenging arenas for drumming up support.

But more importantly, there is no sign that a majority of Maine voters have any interest in another round of debates and votes on a settled question. 

By now, most voters have had a chance to fill out a ranked-choice ballot, and for the most part, they understand and like it. In races that have more than two candidates, voters can stick with their favorite in the first round without having to worry that they have thrown the race to their least favorite by voting for a “spoiler.” Although Maine was first to introduce ranked choice voting in statewide races, the practice is catching on, with 21 other states using ranked-choice voting in at least some elections.

It’s important to remember that the current Republican-led effort would not repeal ranked choice voting completely. It would not effect the voting system which will be used to decide the winners in the state primaries that will be held on July 14 and races for the U.S. House and Senate in November.

The signature-gathering campaign is for a people’s veto election to overturn only the law signed by Gov. Mills in January, which extends ranked-choice voting to the presidential election.

Getting enough signatures would put the veto on the ballot while the law is suspended. 

It may be that the temporary reprieve in what could be a very close presidential race in Maine is what the party is after. Even if they lose the people’s veto vote, the ballots cast for independent or third party candidates would not be reallocated to the voter’s second choices in the presidential race, making it possible to win with less than half the vote. 

Nationally, Republicans have backed efforts to discourage voter participation, like voter ID laws, and have fought reforms to make voting easier, such as expanded vote-by-mail. Rather than develop policies that would be popular with a majority of voters, we are seeing strategies that make it easier to win with a minority.

Maine voters meant it when they said they wanted an alternative to a system that declared winners in races where the leading candidate got little more than one third of the vote. Ranked choice voting has been used in a general election and two primaries and has withstood a court challenge.

The issue has been decided. We don’t need to vote on this again."

This editorial was published online on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.