To the Editor:
I was extremely proud when Maine took the bold step to be the first state to enact ranked choice voting for national elections. Ranked choice is not a new concept. In fact, Australia has used it for 100 years, but it is new to us. There are many reasons given why ranked choice is a preferable way to vote, but I would like to address the one that feels most urgent at this moment in time.
I believe that ranked choice voting can help to heal the divide within this country and, more importantly, within this state. “All politics begin at home.” Maine people have always been very pragmatic. We have chosen very thoughtful and down-to-earth people to represent us here and in Washington, but something has changed over the last decade. Not only have those we sent to represent us ignored the majority of the people who voted for RCV two times, but the polarization that grips the nation has crept into Maine. This polarization starts at the top with the candidates pulling us farther and farther apart from each other. No longer is the family that lives at the end of the road your good neighbor, who would do anything to help you in need. They are now the opposition, driven to the polls to cast a vote against what you stand for.
We cannot possibly live side by side in our communities or with family members as long as the focus is constantly on what divides us. It is our responsibility to see the good in that person again and care what is important to them. But it is also critical that the candidates cease from dividing us with their “hard-line” rhetoric. So why do I think RCV can bring us together? Because the candidates will have to leave the comfort of courting just those who unconditionally support them. They will have to solicit a second- and third-choice vote from folks who have different concerns. To do this they will have to listen more to opposing viewpoints and work to find solutions that can address these differing needs. They will have to broaden their appeal. And we as voters must demand this from our candidates. Can we really feel good about ourselves when we don’t consider our neighbors?
RCV also allows voices from non party candidates to be heard and debated, and it is within
these debates that new ideas emerge. I cannot stress strongly enough our responsibility to be “informed voters.” I took this opportunity afforded me on Nov. 6 to rank my votes very seriously. I listened to every debate and interview, knowing I would be able to to rank the candidates. I can’t explain the pride and gratitude I felt for our state, as I personally cast my first vote for Tiffany Bond, knowing she would probably not win but because she had some fresh ideas and I wanted to show my respect for her courage to run. I did this in all confidence that my second vote for Jared Golden would count. Where we are now, with recounts and lawsuits just magnifies how much we need to heal.
Ranked choice voting is not for Democrats or Republicans; it is for all candidates who aspire to represent us in public office, and it is for all of us as voters to exercise our right to vote and to rank those votes, if we so choose. It is a small but important step to bridging our divide.