It’s a real disappointment that Maine’s Republican Party is still trying to stop ranked-choice voting.

Republicans recently announced a petition drive to put a question on the November ballot that would stop us from using ranked-choice voting in the presidential election. If they succeed in getting enough signatures to make the ballot, we will not be able to use ranked choice this year when we vote for president. Wouldn’t it be better to assure that our selection for president is liked and supported by a majority of those of us who vote?

Republicans placed an initiative on the ballot a few years ago to stop ranked-choice voting, but fortunately a majority of us voted against it. Let’s hope for the same result if they make the ballot this year.

I was one of the original petitioners to bring ranked choice to Maine. Before signing on, I did a lot of research, and the thing that really convinced me that this was a good idea was that ranked choice gives us a chance that those we elect would actually be liked by a majority of us. I really like that, and I believe it is important in restoring public trust in and support for our political and governing system.

I am very disappointed that because our state constitution says that state elections must be decided by a plurality, not a majority, we can’t use ranked choice for state races. Maybe someday we can change our constitution.

Portland Press Herald reporter Scott Thistle wrote a good story in this newspaper recently and I especially liked the comments of Anna Kellar, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “November candidates and the parties that support them,” said Kellar, “have nothing to fear from RCV if they have the support of a majority of Maine people.”

Ranked choice “puts more power in the hands of voters, ensures those elected to office have the broadest support, promotes civility in campaigns and may serve to reduce voter cynicism and increase voter participation,” said Kellar. I agree.

In addition to federal races, we can use ranked choice in primary elections for governor and the Legislature. This year, for the first time, we’ll use ranked choice in a U.S. Senate race. Given the nastiness we’ve already suffered in that race, it will be interesting to see if any of the candidates are liked by a majority of us in November.

The ugly divisive political system we are suffering through today is both distressing and appalling. One of the worst things is that national groups who don’t have to disclose their donors are filling our airwaves with nasty and dishonest ads.

When I managed Dave Emery’s first campaign for Congress in 1974, we spent a total of $36,000.  In Maine’s 2nd District congressional race in 2018, $30 million was spent, most of it by national groups, and we were bombarded with nasty ads.

And back in the day, people in both political parties were able to be friends, even if they disagreed on issues. I’m afraid that is rare today. It astonishes me sometimes when people get into nasty disagreements in comments posted after my columns. Sometimes those arguments will go on for days.

Essentially, ranked choice allows people to vote for all those candidates they like, and if no candidate wins a majority, the second- and third-place votes are counted, and so on, until a candidate has a majority of the votes.

This worked out well in the last election when neither Bruce Poliquin nor Jared Golden received a majority of the votes in the first round. More second-place voters selected Jared, and once he reached the majority, he was named the victor.

Jared is an outstanding young man doing a great job for us in Congress. What I like best about that election was that a majority of the voters liked him. That has helped him get off to a good start.

I urge you not to sign the Republican petition to stop ranked-choice voting, and look beyond the nasty political ads to find candidates you like. You can use ranked-choice voting to vote for all of them.

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


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