December 15, 2018
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Despite claims of chaos and confusion, Nov. 6 election was well run

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Ballots are prepared to be tabulated for Maine's 2nd Congressional District's House election in Augusta, Nov. 12, 2018.

The League of Women Voters of Maine stands for election integrity, including the accurate and transparent implementation of ranked-choice voting.

Despite recent attacks by Bruce Poliquin, the incumbent who ( pending a recount) was unseated in the Nov. 6 race in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, Mainers should be proud of the ranked-choice voting system they enacted.

The implementation of ranked-choice voting was an effort more than 17 years in the making. Since 2001, seven proposed pieces of legislation related to ranked-choice voting were introduced in the Maine Legislature; none were passed into law.

It took a 2016 citizen initiative, brought about by a public petition, for ranked-choice voting to be successfully adopted. That result was reaffirmed in the June 2018 people’s veto vote, again strongly supporting ranked-choice voting.

In the time between the passage of the ballot initiative and its actual implementation in January, lawmakers tried to undermine the public will four times in court. And once more, the voting public had to take action to defend their chosen electoral system, vetoing a law passed by the Legislature to delay the implementation of ranked choice voting until 2021.

It has been an uphill battle, and Mainers have made their preference for ranked-choice voting known again and again. But recent events show that our battle is still not over.

By all reports, the administration of both the June primary and the November general election went exceptionally well. By one calculation, 99.8 percent of Maine voters correctly marked their ballots — a sign that voters clearly understood how to vote and were not confused. Clerks reported that although the polls were busy, there were no reports of “chaos” anywhere in the state.

Yet, Poliquin and his supporters are complaining about the system.

Poliquin’s complaints misrepresent how the ranked-choice voting system actually worked in November — well — and falsely allege widespread voter fear and confusion. Such “crying wolf” erodes public trust in their elected officials, the electoral process, and the dedicated public servants who administered the election fairly.

On Nov. 15, unofficial results for the 2nd District race were released. They were corrected in the Maine secretary of state’s final and official results, presented to the governor two days ago. The cause for correction was the result of human error, consisting of placing papers into electronic tabulation machines that should have been hand-processed. It is essential to note that these errors were completely unrelated to the use of ranked-choice voting.

The League of Women Voters of Maine, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for election integrity, has reviewed the secretary of state’s statement on the anomaly and sees no reason to doubt the final tally.

I and many other observers witnessed the complete transparency of the secretary of state’s tabulation process, conducted in an open, secure room in Augusta over the course of seven days.

It is reasonable to ask questions about any irregularity, but unfounded allegations of widespread “doubt and confusion,” such as those being made by Poliquin, don’t serve the public. In fact, they undermine the democratic process and the public’s demonstrated preference for a fairer electoral system.

In every election, the overriding goal is to make sure that every vote is properly counted. We are confident that our officials are properly administering the election and that they will continue to do so, and we urge all parties to refrain from unwarranted or inflammatory attacks on the process.

Anna Kellar is the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Maine.

 


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