On Tuesday, November 17, FairVote held a webinar to discuss Maine’s historic first use of RCV in a presidential general election. It was part of our fall series on The Future of American American Elections.
FairVote senior policy coordinator Pedro Hernandez moderated the event. He was joined by Carrie LeVan, Assistant Professor of Government at Colby College; Anna Kellar, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Maine; and Utah State Representative Marc Roberts. Together they discussed why RCV has appeal around the country, how Maine voters felt about the process, and how we can work from the bottom up to expand its use to other states.
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- Kellar says that in this year’s congressional and presidential races, Maine had majority winners in the first round. They say that the elections went well, with voters finding the voting experience satisfactory. Voters who received mail ballots early appreciated the extra time to research and rank candidates (7:29).
- LeVan explains that although the term “ranked choice voting” has become somewhat partisan in Maine, asking Mainers whether they believe elections should have a majority requirement shows that most support it (12:24).
- Roberts was first introduced to RCV when it was used at the Utah Republican caucus meetings, and loved the system. He explains how RCV could improve Utah’s elections by eliminating vote splitting, and describes his efforts to pass RCV legislation in the state (17:58).
- Kellar believes that the best way to get voters to appreciate RCV is to have them use it, because the more voters use it the more they like it. They say that gradually expanding RCV from one office to others can help get voters comfortable with it, rather than trying to adopt it for every office at once (26:53).
- LeVan’s research has found that most voters who use RCV find it easy, and feel more confident voting in RCV elections than plurality elections. LeVan expresses worry that RCV might hurt the chances of non-traditional candidates, but also notes that studies from the Bay Area have shown women and people of color perform well in RCV elections (33:02).
- Roberts says it is hard promoting RCV from the top down. He agrees with Kellar that a gradual approach is best, getting people to experience it in contexts like local or party elections and expanding it from there (44:13).
- LeVan says that opposition to RCV often comes from whichever party thinks it will disadvantage them, and the party this is can differ from one jurisdiction to another (49:07). LeVan and Roberts agree that we should step back from thinking about partisan gains, and instead view RCV from the perspective that majority rule is good for democracy regardless of which party benefits.
If you want to watch a recording of this webinar, or any of the others we have held this year, a full list with YouTube links can be found on our website.