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In Defense of Ranked Choice

by Chris Hedgpeth

We all remember the 2018 presidential election. The daily news  hammers into us the repercussions of the choices we made as a country that fateful November. What’s easier to forget is the bold social experiment we embarked on last year: ranked choice voting.
It’s been done in other countries, and other states, but in 2018, we Mainers tried something new.

And it worked wonderfully. During the first round of vote counting, Bruce Poliquin lead Jared Golden by about 2000 votes, but neither candidate had the requisite 50% to win. This is where ranked choice came into play. Traditionally, the voters who supported independent candidates Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar would have thrown their ballots into the furnace of the American political dichotomy and gone home. Not on November 6, 2018. Those Mainers’ votes went to their second choice candidates, which notably boosted Jared Golden from 2000 votes behind to 3000 votes ahead, securing his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

Let’s be clear here. This is still a democracy. Rep. Golden won because he got more votes. We merely changed the method by which we count votes. This new method empowers voters and third party candidates alike. Voters are free to choose whoever they want as their first choice without worry of a “spoiling” effect of having, for example, progressive votes split between Democratic and Independent candidates. You may remember this effect from the 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial elections. Only 38% of Maine voters voted for Paul LePage in both elections, yet he won both times. Ironically, Elliot Cutler, who lost to LePage by about 7500 votes in 2010, had ranked choice voting as a platform position.

The two party system is smothering new ideas and destroying our sense of unity as Americans. If there is a method by which we can overcome this system, ranked choice voting is it.

 

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