2017-06-23 / Letters

A hurdle for ranked choice voting

To the editor:

In November, the citizens of Maine voted to implement ranked choice voting in elections for governor, state senators and representatives as well as for our delegation to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. This modification to our election system is designed to ensure that the candidates who win our elections have broad support. ranked choice voting is particularly relevant in Maine, where our strong history of third party and independent candidates has resulted in many multi-candidate elections.

On May 23, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion that the ranked choice voting law conflicts with provisions in the state constitution that require winners of state offices be determined by “a plurality” of all the votes. These plurality provisions were added to the constitution in the 1800s to avoid re-running elections for house seats until somebody finally achieved a majority or allowing the legislature to choose senators and the governor whenever multi-candidate races failed to result in a majority winner. Ranked Choice Voting effectively addresses these concerns by allowing voters to resolve multi-candidate races in a single citizen’s election without the vote-splitting and spoiler concerns inherent in a plurality election (see rcvmaine.com/ history for a fascinating review).

On June 2, two bills were introduced in the Maine State Legislature. The first, LD 1624 - Proposing an amendment to the constitution of Maine to implement ranked choice voting, moves ranked choice voting forward. The second, LD 1625, an act to repeal the ranked choice voting law, would overturn the results of the citizen’s initiative, even for U.S. House and Senate races that are unaffected by the state constitution.

The citizens of Scarborough supported ranked choice voting in November by a wider margin than the state. The legislature now has a responsibility to reconcile the ranked choice voting law with the constitution, rather than overturning it on a linguistic technicality. Please join me in urging Sen. Amy Volk and Rep. Karen Vachon or Heather Siroki to vote for LD 1624 and against LD 1625.

Debra McDonough

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