Question 5 on the Nov. 8 ballot asks whether to allow voters to rank the candidates according to their preference and to require a candidate to win by a majority of the vote, to be elected for the U.S. Senate, Congress, governor, state senator and state representative. A majority requires more than half the vote and the current plurality is the most-votes-wins standard. It is a warning that no candidate received a majority in nine of the last 11 elections for governor.

The Constitution of Maine originally required a candidate to receive a majority to be elected governor. In the 1800s a majority was regarded as essential and required, despite the problems it caused if there were more than two candidates and no candidate received a majority. In that case, the Legislature was supposed to select the best candidate, but it selected governors based on the candidate’s political party. Although two previous attempts to adopt a plurality had been defeated, a plurality was finally adopted in 1880. A plurality was avoided because allows the percentage of the vote to win to decline (below 50 percent) without any minimum requirement. With three near-equal candidates and a fourth that receives 3 percent of the vote, it takes less than one out of three votes to be elected. In that case, more than two-thirds of the votes were not for the candidate that was elected. This also puts more pressure on the voter not to waste their vote.

Ranked-choice voting eliminates the last-place candidate and transfers those votes according to the voter’s rank until a candidate has a majority, so more votes are included in determining the winner. Today, technology can determine a majority when there are more than two candidates. Ranked-choice voting restores the authority to the majority.

Bradley Dooling


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