Maine Clergy and Faith Leaders for Ranked Choice Voting

Sign-on letter released October 26, 2016

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 2018 election.

Ranked Choice Voting is a simple change to the way we elect Maine’s leaders in races with more than two candidates. It empowers voters with more meaningful choices and encourages candidates to reach beyond ideological and partisan bases to bridge divides. Ranked Choice Voting restores majority rule and eliminates “vote splitting,” which has unfairly cast Republican, Democratic, and independent candidates as “spoilers.” 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, 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, 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.

Elections 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.

Sincerely,

Rev. Kent E. Allen, First Parish Congregational Church (Yarmouth)

Rev. Maria Anderson, St. Ansgar Evangelical Lutheran Church (Portland)

Cushman Anthony, Board Member, Maine Council of Churches Board Member (Falmouth)

Rev. Margaret Anzalone, Universalist Unitarian Church (Waterville)

Pastor James Arrison, Pastor, People's United Methodist Church (Freeport)

Rev. John Balicki, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (Brunswick)

Rev. Dr. Diana Beach, Retired Episcopal Priest (Thomaston)

Rev. Richard Beal, Retired Unitarian Universalist Minister (Norway)

Rev. Margaret Beckman, First Universalist Church (Pittsfield)

Rev. Robert Benson, United Church of Christ (Bar Harbor)

Reverend Ian Bockus, Former Minister, Trinity Episcopal Church (Prospect)

Rev. Timothy Boggs, St. Alban's Episcopal Church (Cape Elizabeth)

Tom Boudin, Elder, Edgecomb Community Church (Edgecomb)

Rev. Dr. Albert Boyce, Unitarian Universalist Minister (Vassalboro)

Rev. Celestyne Bragg, New Hope Baptist Church (Kittery)

Rev. David Butler, Retired Minister, First Parish United Church of Christ (Gorham)

Rev. Lara K-J Campbell, Minister, First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church (Kennebunk)

Rev. Nancee Campbell, Retired Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church (Augusta)

Reverend Stephen Carnahan, Pastor, High Street Congregational Church UCC, (Auburn)

Pastor Randy Cathcart, Former Pastor, Assemblies of God (Westbrook)

Rabbi Joshua Chasan, Retired Rabbi (Portland)

Rev. Dr. Steven F. Crowson, Trinity Episcopal Church (Lewiston)

Rev. Alejandro DeJesus, Clinical Staff Chaplain, VA Maine Healthcare System (Augusta)

Rev. Dr. Mark Allen Doty, Hammond Street Congregational Church (Bangor)

Rev. Priscilla Dreyman, Retired Methodist Minister (South Portland)

Rev. Mia Dyson, Wellspring Multifaith Center (Freeport)

Rev. Marvin Ellison, Former Christian Ethics Professor and Presbyterian Minister (Portland)

Pastor Sara Ewing-Merrill, Pastor, HopeGateWay United Methodist Church (Portland)

Pastor Ernest Farrar, Wayne Community United Methodist Church (Wayne)

Hannah Faulkner, Pianist, Unitarian Universalist Community Church (Augusta)

Friar Nathan Ferrell, The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary (Falmouth)

Julia Fitz-Randolph, Steering Committee, MUUSAN (Damariscotta)

Rev. Sue Gabrielson, Unitarian Universalist Church (Sanford)

Pastor Michael Gray, United Methodist Church (Old Orchard Beach)

Rev. Bill Gregory, First Parish Congregational Church (Yarmouth)

The Reverend Lorna Grenfell, Church of Universal Fellowship (Orono)

Rev. Erika Hewitt, Midcoast Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (Damariscotta)

Rev. Dale Holden, Retired Minister, First Congregational Church (Houlton)

Rev. David Hutchinson, Unitarian Universalist Church (Houlton)

Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Colby College (Portland)

Rev. Carie Johnsen, Unitarian Universalist Community Church (Augusta)

Rev. Dr. Mykel Johnson, Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church (Portland)

Minister Samuel Johnson, Retired Clergy, United Methodist Church (Wells)

Rev. Theodore Kanellakis, Retired Episcopal Priest (Camden)

Rev. Lorraine Kardash, The Portland New Church (Portland)

Mary Ann Larson, Steering Committee, MUUSAN (Auburn)

Rabbi Darrah Lerner, Synagogue Beth El (Bangor)

Reverend Scott Lovaas, Interim Minister, First Parish Congregational UCC, (Gorham)

Rev. Jane MacIntyre, South Parish Congregational Church UCC (Augusta)

Pastor Mimi Magee, United Methodist Church (Kennebunk)

Reverend David Matson, Rector, St. Barnabas and St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, (Hallowell)

Rev. Don Mayberry, First Congregational Church (South Paris)

Dale McCormick, Steering Committee, MUUSAN (Augusta)

Rev. Robert A. Moore, Elder, HopeGateWay United Methodist Church (Portland)

Rita Moran, Member, Eminent Grove (Augusta)

Reverend Doctor Stan Moody, Senior Pastor, Columbia St. Baptist, (Bangor)

Pastor Ralph Moore, Retired Rector, Episcopal Church, (Rockland)

Rev. Francis Morin, St. Michael Catholic Parish (Augusta)

Sacred Heart Parish (Hallowell)

Rev. Dr. Karen L. Munson, District Superintendent, United Methodist Church (Topsham)

Rev. Doug Nielsen, First Parish Congregational Church (Saco)

Rev. David Olson, Retired Minister, and Nancy Olson (Brunswick)

Rev. Dr. Timothy Parsons, Retired Episopal Priest (Norway)

Kent Price, Steering Committee, MUUSAN (Castine)

Rev. Michael I. Robinson, Retired Pastor, First Congregational Church (Lincoln)

Rev. Donald J. Rudalevige, Retired United Methodist Pastor and District Superintendent (Cape Elizabeth)

Rabbi Jared Saks, Congregation Bet Ha’am (South Portland)

Rev. Will Saunders, Retired Unitarian Universalist Minister (Portland)

Rev. Richard E. Senghas, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland (Scarborough)

Bettyann Sheats, Vestry Member, St Michael’s Episcopal Church (Auburn)

Martha Soule, Instructor, Peaceful Heart Sangha, Tradition of Thich Nhat Hahn (Readfield)

Rev. Fayre Stephenson, First Universalist Church (Norway and South Paris)

Rev. Emily Blair Stribling, Trinity Episcopal Church (Castine)

John Sullivan, Retired Episcopal Organist (Saco)

Reverend Tamara Torres, Associate Minister, First Parish Congregational UCC, (Gorham)

Vicor Kit Wang, St. Stephen the Martyr Episcopal Church (East Waterboro)

The Reverend Diane E. L Wendorf, North Parish Congregational Church (Sanford)

Rev. Kristin White, Green Street United Methodist Church (Augusta)

Kathy Woodside, Moderator, Hancock-Waldo Association, Maine Conference, UCC (Bar Harbor)