2018-01-26 / Letters

Ranked choice voting is misunderstood

To the editor:

I want to thank Mr. Cressey for answering my letter of Jan. 12 on ranked choice voting. I appreciate his research on the election of 1878, which inspired the Legislature to change our Constitution regarding elections from requiring a majority to just a plurality. “No candidate received a majority for the office of governor and the Democratic controlled legislature selected Democrat Alonzo Garcelon as the winner, even though he had come in third in the election,” Mr. Cressey wrote.

If ranked choice voting had been in effect in 1878, the legislature would not have made the decision. Mr. Garcelon, who came in third, would have been eliminated, the second choices on his ballots would have been counted, and one of the top two candidates would have won. I think this would have been a fair outcome.

In November 2016, the people of Maine voted by 52 percent in favor of ranked choice voting. Mr. Cressey says that number only represents 35 percent of all registered voters. That may well be. Unfortunately, not all registered Mainers vote in every election. The people who do vote make the decisions. I join Mr. Cressey in encouraging everyone to vote.

Mr. Cressey also writes in favor of “one person, one vote.” In ranked choice voting, the people whose first choice is the candidate who comes in last, have their first choice eliminated and their second choice is counted. Only one vote per person is counted in the final tally. Another way of understanding this is to consider a run-off election.

When no one receives a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the people return to the polls for a runoff vote between the remaining candidates. Ranking our choices is a way to accomplish the same thing without having to return to the polls. Consider again the election of Mr. Garcelon in 1878. Ranked choice voting is one way of making sure the winner has the approval, either first or second choice, of the majority of voters.

Another advantage of ranking choices is that no candidate is a spoiler. If a voter favors a candidate who has only a slight chance of winning, he or she can vote for their first choice, knowing that if their favorite is eliminated, their second choice will be counted in the final round. This opens the field for independents or members of small parties.

Finally, Mr. Cressey assumes this issue is about our current governor. However, Paul LePage is not running for governor again because of term limits. Even if he were, ranked choice voting would have no effect on his election. It will only be used in primaries and U.S. Congressional elections, which are not governed by the Constitution of Maine. In the future, the Legislature and the people of Maine may have an opportunity to return to Maine’s original Constitution, which calls for a majority in order to win an election.

Victoria Adams

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