2018-07-05 / Editorial

Ranked choice voting, explained for November vote

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

After many months and many rounds of debate, Maine voters have determined that we will use Ranked Choice Voting to select our elected officials in federal races and in primary elections.

This November, when we go to the ballot box, Mainers will rank candidates in order of their preference in the race for U.S. Senate, the race to represent Maine’s Second Congressional District, and in the race to represent Maine’s First Congressional District. I am a candidate in the First District, so most readers of this newspaper will see my name on their ballot.

Ranked Choice Voting can seem complex, so here’s a quick explanation:

Your new ballots will have a list of candidates for each federal office on the left side, just like in past elections. The difference is that you will now be able to rank each candidate in order of how much you like them – first, second, third, etc. You can rank as many or as few candidates as you wish.

When the votes are counted, if no candidate has received a majority (more than half) of the first-place votes, then the person who received the lowest number of first place votes is eliminated – but their ballot isn’t gone. Instead, it’s checked to see who the voter’s second choice was, and those second-place votes are distributed to the appropriate remaining candidates. This elimination of the least popular candidate and distribution of their second place votes continues, until someone gets more than 50 percent of the vote. We just used Ranked Choice Voting in the party primaries, so if you voted in that election, you’re already familiar with the approach.

Some states call this an instant runoff. Of course, it’s only needed in races with three or more candidates. But when there are many people running for the same office, it helps elect the candidate that received the widest support from the most different voters, instead of a divisive candidate that is popular with just enough voters to win.

I am a strong supporter of this change to our voting process for a number of reasons.

I believe some elected officials have become too dedicated to their political parties and too focused on fighting, rather than on fixing obvious problems. Because ranked choice voting eliminates the so-called “spoiler effect,” it makes party affiliation less important, and voters can feel free to support the candidate they think will do the best job representing them, regardless of political affiliation. As a result, party labels will matter much less, and that will help make sure political parties don’t represent themselves rather than the people.

I am also hopeful that this change will lead to more civility in politics at a time when the inclination of politicians on both sides of the aisle is to place blame, point fingers and retreat to their respective corners. Because people in the race will be working for the support of people that also support another candidate (they want that second place vote), candidates will be less likely to resort to negative campaigning.

If you have questions about the ranked choice voting process or anything else, please feel free to email me at martin.grohman@legislature.maine.gov or call my house at 283-1476. I hope you’re having a great summer. It was so wonderful to see the great crowds at La Kermesse and the Saco Sidewalk Arts Festival. I congratulate all the hardworking people who made these events such a success – we are fortunate to have you in our community.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is an Independent State Representative and candidate for US Congress serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, he hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called ‘The Grow Maine Show’ – available on Apple Podcasts. Sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or at facebook.com/ repgrohman.

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