On Nov. 8, people in Maine will go to the polls to vote for the next president, congressional representatives and state ballot initiatives. One of the ballot initiatives is Question 5, which reads, “Do you want to allow voters to rank their choices of candidates in elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative, and to have ballots counted at the state level in multiple rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins by majority?”
This question is asking — do you want a ranked-choice voting system in Maine? Not many people know what ranked-choice voting is, but they should. It is much better than Maine’s current voting system.
Ranked-choice voting is easy to understand. When people vote, they list their preferences in the order they want them. If no candidate gets a majority, the candidate in last place is eliminated. Anyone’s first vote for them would not count. Their second preference would then be their top pick and those votes are added to the original vote count of the other candidates. This should cause one candidate to get a majority. If not, the candidate in last place is eliminated and the elimination process repeats.
Say you and your friends wanted to go out to eat. There are nine of you and there are four restaurants that people want to go to. To decide where to go, you do a ranked-choice vote.
Three of your friends want to go to McDonald’s. Three want to go to Burger King. Two want to go to Wendy’s. One wants to go to Taco Bell. Since no one got a majority, Taco Bell is eliminated. The friend who wanted Taco Bell wanted Burger King as his second choice, so Burger King gets another vote. Now Burger King gets four votes. But, that is still not a majority.
Now Wendy’s has the least with two. It’s eliminated and their second options are counted. They both chose Burger King. This gives Burger King six votes. Six is a majority of nine, so you all go to Burger King.
Why is voting like this a good thing? It gives people the chance to vote more for the things they want. It would have helped Maine in its races for governor. In the 2010 gubernatorial race, Republican Paul LePage got 37.6 percent of the vote, Independent Eliot Cutler got 35.9 percent and Democrat Libby Mitchell got 18.8 percent. Through a couple ranked-choice rounds, smaller candidates like Shawn Moody would have got written off and made little difference.
However, there still would not have been a majority. It is safe to assume, given Cutler’s past experience in Democratic party politics, Democratic second-choice votes for Libby Mitchell would have been passed along to Eliot Cutler, giving him 54 percent of the vote and a clear majority win.
Maine should move forward on this issue given its electoral history, but also as a way to start a movement. States are the laboratories of democracy. If Maine can pass and succeed at this voting system, the rest of the country will follow.
This would revolutionize national elections. The 2016 presidential election is a perfect example of an election that could use a ranked-choice system. According to more than 30 years of ABC News and Washington Post polling, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the least popular presidential candidates of all time.
This should be the perfect time for third parties to rise up, but with the electoral systems set up the way they are, they have no chance. Maine’s history shows the potential of non-Democratic or Republican candidates with the chance to win, given the right electoral system.
Voting for a ranked-choice system will empower the people of Maine to vote and get results that they are happier with. The plurality should not govern the majority. Ranked-choice ensures that the people will be satisfied by the majority vote. By reforming its electoral system, the state of Maine can lead the nation in creating a better democratic system.