Voices & Choices

Ranked choice voting ballot measure drive in Maine

Ranked choice voting ballot measure drive in Maine
Two leading Maine state representatives, Sen. Dick Woodbury (I) and Diane Russell  (D), have announced the launch of a ballot measure for ranked choice voting, the instant runoff system that opens elections and upholds the goal of majority rule, as reported in the Bangor Daily  News and Portland Press Herald. The proposal would establish ranked choice voting for all elections for Congress and state offices, starting in 2018.

There's every indication that this effort can succeed. Maine advocates of ranked choice voting have been meeting regularly over the past year and a half, with RCV formally backed by the League of Women Voters of Maine after extensive study and state legislation backed by nearly a third of state representatives in 2013. With eight of the last ten elections for  governor  won with less than 50% of the vote-- and with three of the  last five won with less than 40%, including victories  by a Democrat, Republican and independent -- it's clear that Maine voters want the option of more than two candidates on the November ballot. This year it's quite likely that the election for governor and one of the state's  two U.S. House race will be won with less than 50%.

Ranked choice voting is used to elect the mayor of Portland, Maine's largest city. In 2011, Mike Brennan was elected by the system as the city's first elected mayor in decades Hotly contested, the election drew high praise afterwards, with the Portland Press Herald pointing out in an editorial entitled "Our View: Brennan, ranked-choice voting both winners" that

       "Without ranked-choice voting this would have been a very different campaign. If they were just seeking to have the most votes on Election Night, the candidates would have targeted a number of voters, identified their supporters and made sure they turned out to the polls. In this case, about 5,000 votes from nearly 20,000 cast would have been enough.
        "A candidate with a hot-button neighborhood issue could have run away with the election without ever meeting a voter from another part of town. Under the ranked-choice system, candidates were forced to engage with each other and talk to each others’ voters.
        "The result was an interesting conversation about Portland and its future that would not have happened in a “turn-out-your-base” election. That debate helped clarify the job description for Portland’s mayor, and it will make life easier for Brennan when he shows up for work."

Mayor Brennan echoed that sentiment in a FairVote Voices podcast interview in 2013. Stay tuned for Maine having a chance to lead the nation in becoming the first state to enact ranked choice voting for all state and congressional elections.

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