Please step up to help elect a good governor by voting in the Republican or Democratic primary on June 12. There are some good choices, and it’s your responsibility to choose the very best one — and now, thanks to ranked-choice voting, you can choose more than one good candidate.

There’s going to be a lot of inexperience in Augusta next year. At least 50 legislators will be new, and most of the legislative leadership will be new to those positions, including the speaker of the House and president of the Senate.

We need a governor who can work with legislators in both political parties, and who will employ staff and commissioners with experience to help achieve that goal. It’s very important that the commissioners of each department, as well as their top staff members, be available to work with legislators on issues and legislation that impacts each department.

If you are an independent voter, please don’t sit on the sidelines and let others choose your candidates. Unenrolled voters can enroll in a party on the day of the primary and unenroll in 90 days.

I’ve had friends ask how ranked choice works because they are confused about it. This need not be confusing or difficult. You can still vote for your favorite candidate and call it good — there is no obligation to fill in any more than your first choice.

However, with both primaries crowded with candidates, it is unlikely that a candidate in either primary will win a majority of votes initially. That means winning candidates will need to attract second votes. After you have voted for your favorite candidate, if there is another candidate who you think would be a good governor, please give them your second-place vote.


You could talk with a friend whose favorite candidate is different from yours and offer to choose his or her candidate second if he or she chooses your candidate second. Yup, this can be fun.

The ballot will make this very easy to do, and you can actually cast a vote for your third- and fourth-favorite candidates if you wish. You can keep on doing that until you have chosen every candidate on your ballot. But you don’t need to do that, and I am expecting those second-place votes will be enough to elect someone with a majority.

If there are more than two candidates in a legislative or congressional race, you can use ranked choices in those races too. This will be most important in the 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary, where there are three candidates.

I hope you will also vote yes on statewide Question 1, which rejects parts of a new law that would delay the use of ranked-choice voting in elections for any state or federal office until 2022, and then retain ranked-choice voting only if the state constitution is amended by Dec. 1, 2021, a near impossibility because constitutional amendments can only make the Maine ballot with a two-thirds vote of support in the Maine House and Senate.

I was one of the original group that sought a ballot initiative on ranked-choice voting. We got the signatures and won the support of a majority of voters to implement ranked-choice voting. We should not let the Legislature take this opportunity away from us.

I did a lot of research before agreeing to support this effort, and I decided to support ranked choice for two reasons.


First, I think it’s important that elected officials have the support of a majority of voters. It’s a real disadvantage to take office without that.

And, second, I discovered that in the places that now use ranked-choice voting, negative advertising has almost been eliminated. A candidate cannot afford to launch ugly nasty attacks on an opponent because that candidate wants and needs that opponent’s supporters to choose them second. And I hate negative ads, which is almost all we get these days.

Thirteen candidates for governor have asked me for advice and support, and I’ve given it because I know and like them all. But I have emphasized that if they launch any nasty attacks on an opponent, I will not vote for them. I invite you to join me in this pledge. This doesn’t mean a candidate cannot point out differences with another candidate, but it must be done in a respectful manner.

While initially there was concern that ranked choice would cost the secretary of state’s office a huge amount to tabulate the votes, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap now estimates the cost at only $139,000, including the cost of having the state police deliver all the ballots to Augusta.

Portland used ranked-choice voting in its 2011 and 2015 mayoral elections, and more than 94 percent of voters surveyed said that they understood the ballot design and the voting instructions.

Yes, there is nothing to fear, except another nasty and dysfunctional governor. It’s up to you to make sure that doesn’t happen.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at

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