To the Editor:
There are many good reasons to support the ranked-choice voting initiative that will be on the ballot in November 2016.
Our current system, plurality voting, works when there are only two candidates, because one gets a majority and is the winner. But in contests with three or more candidates, which are common in Maine, the “winner” may not get a majority of the votes – 50 percent plus one. This has happened in nine of our last 11 gubernatorial election; some races have been won with less than 40 percent support.
Ranked-choice voting was invented in New England in 1871 and first used in an 1893 election. It has gained growing support among Republican, Democratic and independent lawmakers. It would be used only in races with three or more candidates in primary and general elections for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor, and Maine Senate and House.
Ranked-choice may seem complicated, but it really is simple. It lets you rank your choice based on your preference: one, two, three (or more). If no candidate gets a 50 percent plus one majority, the candidate with the least number of votes has lost and is eliminated. Ballots for this losing candidate are then reassigned to the remaining candidates based on the voters’ second choice, and the ballots are tallied again.
So in a three-person race, we’ll have a winner with majority support in the final tabulation.
There are lots of other benefits of adopting a ranked-choice system. For example, it eliminates “spoilers” and “strategic” voting. You vote for your first choice without worrying that you’re “throwing your vote away” and unintentionally helping to elect your least favorite candidate. It should help get the money out of politics by reducing the need for and influence of negative campaigning.
And it gives you a more meaningful choice as a voter. It levels the playing field for all candidates and encourages them to focus on policy issues.
More than 70,000 petition signatures are being submitted to the secretary of state’s office in October to place ranked-choice voting on the ballot in 2016.
I hope that you too will support this important effort.
Judith P. Swazey