YES on Question 1: Keep Ranked Choice Voting

June 12 primary – be there!

Primary elections coming up soon. Politicians are getting fidgety. Voters have many questions. Much is at stake.

Wherever you are in Maine, your June 12  ballot will feature different candidates but just one ballot initiative, Question 1, which in essence asks if you’re in favor (or not) of preserving Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) for this year’s November election, and beyond. Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Unenrolled (“independent”) will all be able to vote on this question. It’s worded, unfortunately, like this:

Question 1:  Do you want to reject the parts of a new law that would delay the use of ranked-choice voting in the election of candidates for any state or federal office until 2022, and then retain the method only if the constitution is amended by December 1, 2021, to allow ranked-choice voting for candidates in state elections?

  • A “yes” vote is in favor of RCV.
  • A “no” vote opposes RCV.

So simple!

When I first saw this language, I shuddered. How do you take this sentence apart to make sense of it? Why is it in the negative (“reject”… “delay”) when people expect to be voting for something (or not)? Well, it happens this is exactly the same wording that appeared in the People’s Veto petition from last fall, when supporters of RCV gathered well over 60,000 signatures to challenge the Maine Legislature’s last-minute law (the “new law” referred to, above) that delayed implementing the original RCV law (from Referendum Question 5 in the 2016 elections) until the year 2022, effectively defying the will of 53% of Maine voters who voted “yes” on 5. In essence, the “new law” repealed the existing RCV law.

You with me?

It’s because of the “new law” that Question 1 is as clunky as it is – it has to address that “new law” specifically and head-on to negate it. Blame the office of Maine’s Secretary of State for the obfuscatory wording of Question 1 and the People’s Veto – it’s their call to write it as they see fit, not rcvmaine.com or the League of Women Voters or anyone else. Ouch.

So what of “only if the constitution is amended” language? Simply enough, Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court advised last fall that three types of elections would violate the state constitution as it now stands – because it specifically says that candidates can win by a plurality of votes instead of majority. Those elections are —

  • general election for governor
  • general election for state senator
  • general election for state representative

— all still able to be decided by a mere plurality. BUT, the state constitution rightly steers clear of 1) party primaries and 2) general elections for federal office, both of which are outside the constitution’s purview.

Which gets us to what your “yes” vote will mean:

  • RCV will continue to apply to party primaries (Republican, Democrat, Green) for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, State Senate, State House, and Governor
  • RCV will not apply to general elections for Governor, State Senator, and State Representative until/unless the constitution is amended to dump the “plurality” language
  • RCV will apply (for the first time ever) to general elections for U.S. Senate and U.S. House

All of the above happens, of course, only if there are 3 or more candidates for a particular office, and none of them wins a majority of votes.

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The six Maine governors below all won with just a plurality, in races of 3 or more candidates. Results in some cases would have been different with RCV. But that will take a constitutional amendment…

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It’s been noted by others that it’s downright weird to be using a Ranked Choice Voting ballot to choose candidates and at the same time vote on the future of Ranked Choice Voting. A classic case of the supremacy of irony here in Maine, which could readily become the first state in the nation to use Ranked Choice Voting statewide.

Just say “Yes.”

Why? Because Ranked Choice Voting —

  • Gives you more voice in an election
  • Gets rid of voting for “the lesser of two evils”
  • Eliminates the possibility of “spoiler” candidates
  • Promotes more positive campaigning

See my blog post from 2016 for more, and check out rcvmaine.com.

Here’s a sample ballot provided by the Secretary of State’s office just a few days ago. See this (and 3 others) big at their site.

I like this ballot – it’s clean and simple.

So there it is, for now.

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Ned White

About Ned White

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