December 13, 2019
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Mainers have made it clear they want ranked-choice voting

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN

Voters, candidates and elected leaders must abide by election outcomes. Our shared acceptance of that principle is part of the glue that holds us together as Americans.

In 2016, I voted against ranked-choice voting at the ballot box. In 2019, I am a co-sponsor of LD 1083, “An Act To Implement Ranked Choice Voting for Presidential Primary and General Elections in Maine,” which will soon be voted on in the Maine Legislature.

I am a co-sponsor of the bill because I believe that when voters tell us what they want, we should listen.

Twice, in less than two years, a majority of Maine voters rejected the old pick-one voting system and replaced it with ranked-choice voting. Mainers have made it clear that they want RCV used in all federal and state elections because they believe that it’s a better system for picking our political leaders.

Currently, ranked-choice voting is used in all primary and general elections for federal offices in Maine, except in the presidential contest. To use ranked-choice voting in the presidential race, the Maine Legislature must enact LD 1083.

LD 1083 proposes a simple expansion of Maine’s existing RCV voting system that was successfully implemented statewide in 2018. According to exit surveys by Edison Research and the Bangor Daily News, voters in Maine’s 2018 primary and general elections reported that ranked-choice voting was easy to use and that they would like to use it in more elections.

With ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of individual preferences — first choice, second choice and so on. Ballots are counted in rounds where last-place candidates are eliminated until one candidate wins. Your vote counts for your second choice only if your first choice is eliminated.

Simply put, ranked-choice voting is the most cost-effective and efficient way to conduct a runoff that ensures winners are generally elected by a majority of voters.

Some of my legislative colleagues have argued in the past that Maine should not have two voting systems for elections when we can have one. I agree. A majority of Maine voters in 2016 and 2018 cast ballots to reject the old pick-one voting system and replace it with ranked-choice voting. LD 1083 would move us towards a uniform voting system that aligns with the majoritarian preferences of Maine voters.

According to the Bangor Daily News, 62 percent of Maine voters want candidates elected with majority support. Voters rejected the old pick-one voting system precisely because it allowed candidates to win with 31 percent or 37 percent of the vote in races that became defined by “voting splitting,” “spoilers” and “wasted votes.”

The 129th Maine Legislature should act now to align the letter of the law with the intent of the Maine voters who want ranked-choice voting used in all, and not just in some, state and federal elections.

LD 1083 makes this change in time for the 2020 presidential election to ensure that Maine’s Electoral College votes are awarded to the majority winner, and not to any candidate who is potentially opposed by a majority of voters. The winner in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District would still receive one Electoral College vote, as would the winner of the 1st.

As we look forward at the 2020 race for president of the United States, there are an unprecedented number of contenders seeking the job, particularly in the Democratic primary. With more than 20 candidates running for the Democratic nomination alone, now is the perfect time to expand ranked-choice voting. Ask a Democratic voter about the race for the nomination, and at this point almost everyone ranks their favorites. We should give voters that actual choice — to express their true preferences — in the general election, as well as in the primary if the Maine Legislature adopts one for the presidential election.

We are one state. We should have one voting system. Lawmakers should respect the will of the voters and how the majority of Mainers want to elect their leaders — with ranked-choice voting. Now is the time to expand ranked-choice voting to presidential elections.

Charlotte Warren of Hallowell represents District 84 in the Maine House of Representatives.

 



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