YES on Question 5: Ranked Choice Voting!

Clearly I haven’t learned my lesson…

Oh no! Politics again!

Some poll numbers for you:

  • Sanders 42%
  • Johnson 19%
  • Clinton 18%
  • Trump 16%
  • Stein 5%

These were the approximate results of a very unofficial online NBC poll a few weeks back, with over 100,000 participants (and you could vote only once). I say approximate, because I clearly remember the numbers for Johnson and Clinton and Stein, and I remember Sanders being over 40%, so I’ve done my best (can’t find the original poll anywhere online – I think NBC axed it). Gary Johnson edges Hillary! Sanders wins in a romp! My guess is a lot of Bernie Backers jumped into this poll, but still.

Imagine if all five were on the ballot in November, and the entire nation had Ranked Choice Voting. Just try a wild guess at who would ultimately win.

Here’s how it works, told plain and simple, with a bit of flag-waving here and there:

 

So the main idea is, the winning candidate has to end with a majority vote, not a plurality, to be elected. Two groups in particular are keen on Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), and you can dig further into each of them:

  • Maine League of Women Voters. The LWV is strictly nonpartisan and never takes positions on candidates or ballot questions. But they’ve successfully supported Same-Day Registration and Clean Elections, and in this case, Question 5 is also about voting itself, so they’re free to throw their considerable weight behind it. It’s also worth noting the LWV studied RCV intrensively for several years before agreeing to support it
  • rcvmaine.com, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, enthusiastically backing YES on Question 5.

At the national level, Fairvote.org is a nonprofit organization that’s been extremely active both here and around the country. Their top two issues are RCV and gerrymandering.

Why is RCV Important for Maine?

One look at Maine gubernatorial races over the last 40 years reveals an embarrassment of plurality victories – 9 out of 11. The dotted line represents 50% of the vote:

MaineGovs

Though my wife and I didn’t move to Maine until 2012, we certainly heard plenty about the 2010 governor’s race. Imagine how it would’ve turned out with a ballot that looked like this:

RCV-Sample-Ballot

The ballot may have however many rows it needs to list all the candidates. And you need not rank all of them – just the ones you care about. CORECTION, July 27: it applies to races for Governor, the US Senate, the US House, and the State Legislature, both in primaries and the general election. (I previously had stated that it applied to all candidates, from selectperson to President, and this is incorrect. I apologize for the error, and thank rcvmaine.com for bringing it to my attention).

And, in the three-row ballot above, voting for a third choice candidate does not diminish the value of your first choice.

If there’s any argument against this system it’s usually this: some voters may find the ballot visually confusing and they’ll mess it up – say, by marking in two first choices. This is where we throw up our hands and say over and over, “I don’t know. I just don’t know…” In Portland, only 6% said they had any difficulty understanding the ballot. Pretty good.

Why RCV?

The arguments for RCV are numerous and eloquent and powerful – and well-presented on both sites I’ve noted above. But I see it this way: it gives each voter a stronger voice – you’re more likely voting for a candidate than just against the one you hate. It militates against negative campaigning – candidates are more likely to court second choice voters than sling mud at their first choice. It opens the door to more candidates per office – progressives, libertarians, greens, tea partiers, whoever – and truly the most favored candidate wins. It’s just plain more democratic. It broadens our choices past what we have now with our failing two-party system: Republicans locked in hard to the extreme right, and a Democratic establishment which many political observers have notched on the spectrum as right-of-center.

It gives all of us a louder, stronger voice.

It’s also supposed to be a nonpartisan issue, but sure enough, LePage (among others) is furiously opposed to it. He wrote last month in Maine Wire

Maine is also not ready to ignore its constitution and allow ranked-choice voting. Officials who get a plurality of votes win the election. It’s that simple. This is just another way for sore losers to try and overturn election results they don’t like. In the last election, liberals outspent me by more than two-to-one, but I still got more votes than any other Governor in Maine history. If liberals want to win elections with a majority of votes, then they need to put up candidates who will work on the issues Mainers really care about—not a failed socialist ideology. Ignoring our constitution is not the way to do it. (see here).

Well, governor, people in Portland love it.

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The big enchilada: the 2-party system is a dinosaur that is eating us alive.

This map, from 270towin.com, shows all too clearly what’s slowly destroying us. It’s projecting winners in the 2016 election for Congress, where all seats are up for grabs.

ContestedDistricts

See a very few of the tan colored districts? Maine district 2, parts of New York State, southwest Texas, smatterings of Michigan and Iowa? These are the places where there’s a real contest between Republican and Democrat. Elsewhere, in about 98% of our national real estate, the races are already a forgone conclusion.

Bernie supporters have been tearing their hair out over the stranglehold of the two-party system, and how the DNC has done everything in its power to subvert and sabotage his campaign.

Bernie would’ve won, if…

Ralph Lopez writes in Hub Pages a thoroughly researched piece on all that went wrong in the primary season for the Sanders campaign, including multiple cases of DNC-backed fraud, cheating, vastly reduced numbers of polling places – it’s a long list, now strongly supported by yesterday’s Wikileaks release of thousands of DNC-Hillary campaign emails. Lopez’s assertion? Had all the primaries and caucuses been held fairly and openly, with no voter disenfranchisement, Bernie would be the winner of the whole campaign. Some say, had he run as an independent from the getgo, he would’ve done better – skirting all the DNC’s dirty tricks.

And this is one of RCV’s most powerful benefits: it both widens and levels the playing field for candidates from multiple parties. It may be the best weapon we have to split the political machines wide open and end the era of this corporate-media driven plutocracy that will continue, unchecked, under either Clinton or Trump. Though the Maine RCV bill does not include Presidential candidates, it’s a strong start and could inspire a national movement to include this most important of all elections.

No surprise – I’m voting a big loud YES on 5 in November.

If you want to help spread the word, write info@rcvmaine.com. They’d love to hear from you.

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Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.