Maine clergy and faith leaders are invited to sign-on to this letter to demonstrate support for Ranked Choice Voting and to help us restore greater civility to Maine politics.
As people of faith, we support Ranked Choice Voting for numerous reasons; most notably, the possibility it holds to restore greater civility to campaigning and governing. We hope that you will take this opportunity to learn more about Ranked Choice Voting and consider joining us by lending your name in support of this important nonpartisan reform.
Extreme rhetoric and mean-spiritedness in politics has left Mainers and Americans deeply divided, making it difficult to recognize shared values, engage in constructive dialogue, find common ground, and advance the common good. Various solutions have been proposed to restore greater civility and to break gridlock and polarization in Augusta and Washington, but many will take years, even decades, to achieve. If enacted by Maine voters this November, the citizen initiative for Ranked Choice Voting will take effect for the next election in 2018.
Ranked Choice Voting is a simple change to the way we elect Maine’s leaders in races with more than two candidates that empowers voters with more meaningful choices and encourages candidates to reach beyond ideological and partisan bases to bridge divides. It restores majority rule and eliminates “vote splitting,” which has unfairly cast Republican, Democratic, and independent candidates as “spoilers” in elections. Furthermore, Ranked Choice Voting discourages negative campaigning, which can backfire when voters have the power to express opinions about more than one candidate.
A recent study by Rutgers University found that voters and candidates in American cities that use Ranked Choice Voting reported less negative campaigning than voters in cities that used alternative systems, including the “winner-take-all” system that is currently used in federal and state elections in Maine. Over 90% of voters surveyed reported that the Ranked Choice Voting ballot was easy to understand. Portland, Maine has used Ranked Choice Voting since 2011. Over 40% of Portland voters reported less negative campaigning than in the past, and turnout was higher than expected. Cities in California and Minnesota where voters used ranked ballots have also reported higher voter participation.
We believe that political campaigns should focus on issues and the values, visions, experiences, and capabilities of the candidates, not on polling and viability. We believe that voters should have the power to express their opinions about more than one candidate, and the freedom to vote for their favorite candidate without worrying that they will help to elect the candidate they like the least. On the campaign trail and in public life, we believe that Maine’s leaders should appeal more broadly for support and offer leadership that can help to heal divisions and the open wounds of incivility and duplicity.
Election contests with more than two candidates have been commonplace in Maine since the election of independent Governor Jim Longley in 1974. These contests often result in winners elected by less than half of voters. In 9 of the last 11 races for governor, winners were elected by less than 50% of voters: two Democrats, two Republicans, and two independents. In five of those races, winners were elected by less than 40% of voters. The heightened negativity and resentment from these multicandidate contests carries over into governing and exacerbates conflict, polarization, and gridlock in government.
No change in the law will create more generous spirits or greater respect for the dignity of our differences, but improving the processes used to elect Maine’s leaders can help. We have a unique opportunity to improve Maine’s political climate by enacting Ranked Choice Voting on Election Day. We invite you to join clergy and faith leaders across Maine by lending your support to this worthy cause and signing on to this letter.