Augusta obstructionism shows why we need ranked choice voting now

I’m a middle class professional, husband, and father who turned 50 last September and have been quite politically active since the 2004 campaign. I’m a strong supporter of ranked choice voting for one simple reason: I believe that winners of elections in a democracy should have a majority or as close to it as possible.

The current plurality system all too often results in spoiler effect vote splitting and “winners” often secure well below a majority. For me, it is simply a matter of principle.

Many campaigns have become so nasty that we need to take real steps to temper down the rancor. ranked choice voting offers some relief on this point because under this system candidates in multiple candidate elections will have to appeal to voters outside their own narrow base.

I was very pleased to see ranked choice voting win in 2016, but I was also not surprised when the governor and forces in the legislature went right to work to undermine it. The court’s advisory opinion taking such a narrow reading of the plurality clause was surprising since a majority is also a plurality–but then I again was not surprised when the legislature would not support an amendment to fix this part of the law. Nor was I surprised when they hastily voted last fall to effectively throw out the entire law instead of just suspending the three elections in question as was attempted with Rep. Kent Ackley’s amendment to do just that.

Additionally, I was not surprised because Augusta politicians have been attacking all of the recent referendums. And, right now, forces in Augusta are out to further attack the minimum wage law voted in by referendum and even the MaineCare Expansion law which just passed this last November with a whopping 59 percent of the vote.

It’s no wonder people are taking measures to the ballot box with the Augusta establishment tied in knots and unable to get things done on a host of issues important to the public.

So, like so many others in the state, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work to help secure the required 61,100 signatures for the People’s Veto to Restore Ranked Choice Voting. I became the Penobscot County volunteer team captain, and I worked with others in Penobscot County and Hancock County to gather signatures on election day, door-to-door, and in various locations in downtown Bangor–often in sub-zero weather.

And it was amazing how many times I had people tell me how totally fed up they were with Augusta blocking so many of our referendums. I heard this time and time again. I even had some people tell me they didn’t support ranked choice voting in 2016 but were signing the petition now because they were so angry about Augusta politicians overturning the will of the people on our referendums. Other petition circulators from around the state reported the same thing. And, after just 88 days, over 80,000 people signed the petitions.

Now the opposition is out there talking a bunch of nonsense by trying to say that ranked choice voting for our June primaries will be “chaotic.” What a bunch of BUNK! Ranked choice voting has been used with no problems in the last two elections for mayor in Portland, our largest city, including in 2011 when there were some 15 candidates. It is used in a number of other medium and large cities around the nation and in countries around the world. There is no reason to believe it will be “chaotic” at all.

What would be chaotic is if we had major party primary candidates winning with around 20 percent of the vote. In these crowded upcoming primaries for governor, that is exactly what could happen. This is a very disturbing and very real possibility.

So, if you are also sick and tired of Augusta politicians overturning the will of the voters on such things as increasing the minimum wage, additional funding for education, MaineCare Expansion, and ranked choice voting, then please help us win the People’s Veto to Restore Ranked Choice Voting in June and send a clear message to Augusta that we are putting the brakes on them blocking the will of the people on all of our referendums. Please write letters to the editor, OpEds, donate to the cause and do anything else you can to help in this effort. Our very democracy is at stake.

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting delivers signatures to the State House to get the initiative on the ballot. (Photo: Committee for Ranked Choice Voting/ Facebook)

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