The people of Cormorant, Minnesota, recently elected Duke, a 9-year-old Great Pyrenees dog, to his third term as mayor. A story on the Puppy Toob website reported that, “The dog does a good job representing the town as a model on the local billboards, and as a public figure that really does love his constituents. He loves the public appearances he makes with the people who voted for him. So long as they bring him treats and they pet him, he is one happy mayor.”
Don’t we wish it were that easy! While this might be the solution to the disappointing (some would say disgusting) performance of some of our elected officials, we probably won’t elect dogs to public office, at least not yet. But we can vote for the ranked-choice voting initiative on our November ballot to help end the ugliness and dysfunction.
I signed on as one of the petitioners who submitted the ranked-choice voting initiative to the secretary of state for approval for three reasons.
The most obvious benefit would be that we’d get office holders who have the support of at least half of us. If a candidate won more than half the vote in the first count, he or she would be elected. But if no candidate got more than 50 percent, the count would include our second place votes. If a candidate got enough first and second choice votes to win a majority, that candidate would be elected. And so forth.
But this isn’t the only benefit of ranked voting, or even the one that is most important to me. I especially like the fact that it limits negative advertising, which has gotten so bad that we end up not liking any of the candidates. Because a candidate wants — and may need — our second choice votes, that candidate cannot afford to attack our favorite candidate and, in the process, alienate and anger us. That’s not going to get anyone a second choice vote. In places across the country that have ranked voting, this has been one very obvious benefit.
We desperately need this. I’ve spent my career in politics, and never — until the last few elections — saw such brutal, negative, nasty advertising. Some of the attack pieces against legislative candidates were astonishing — and very troubling. Yes, the nastiness has gotten all the way down to the legislative candidate’s level, often coming from national groups that can spend unlimited dollars in these races.
The amount of money spent by special interest groups and campaigns on negative advertising is appalling, and if ranked-choice voting did nothing more than end that, it would be worth adopting. And it will definitely reduce negative ads.
I also like the fact that ranked voting seems to favor female candidates. I’ve known some great female legislators. They can be partisan, for sure, but I have also found them to be more thoughtful and collaborative.
You don’t have to take my word for this. There is ample evidence that ranked-choice voting is achieving these goals.
Here’s a report from Andrew Douglas, published last year by The Center for Voting and Democracy: “Ranked-choice voting (RCV) has been associated with a range of civic benefits, but in the context of the polarized politics of the United States its potential to promote civil and inclusive campaigns is especially promising. As the use of ranked choice voting has increased in the U.S. — including adoptions in Minnesota’s Twin Cities and the Bay Area in California — there is now more data available to test this idea in American elections. Highlights from two recent studies suggest that RCV has been embraced by voters and candidates alike, who see RCV as a means of reducing divisive politics and fostering more positive, inclusive, and informative campaigns.”
There’s lots more information on the Ranked Choice website, with a great explanation — and answers to all your questions — at www.rcvmaine.com/faq.
For example, you do not have to rank all the candidates. You can keep your paper ballot. Ranked-choice voting has been used for 120 years by hundreds of governments and private associations. If enacted, it will be used in primary and general elections for U.S. Senate and Congress, governor, and state Senate and House of Representatives races, starting in 2018. More than 450 current and former elected officials, business and labor leaders, clergy and educators have endorsed Question 5. And 98 percent of those of us who donated to the ranked-choice campaign are Mainers.
Set aside your frustration with the current state of politics in our state and help make it better by voting for the ranked-choice initiative. I can tell you one thing for sure: things won’t get better unless you step up to make it happen.