27 May Why vote Yes on 1, for ranked choice voting, on June 12
The problem is that with the plurality voting rule in use throughout the United States, the winners of many of our elections, at all levels of government, take power despite the fact that the majority of those going to the polls did not vote for them. We are talking about the many elections in which there are more than two candidates. The electorate splits its vote among the three or more people running, often resulting in individual vote totals considerably below 50 percent, and in extreme cases leading to selection of a candidate who would lose if running in a two-candidate race against any of the more popular candidates.
This is the great weakness of the plurality voting system: the candidate with the most votes wins, whatever the percentage of the overall vote the candidate receives. The situation that gets the most attention is a candidate with little chance of success entering a race and drawing votes that might otherwise have gone to the leading candidates, thus affecting the outcome. Recall Ralph Nader’s role in the 2000 presidential election.
Ten U.S. states have responded to the problems created by plurality voting by holding two-candidate run-offs in primary elections if no one candidate wins a majority in the first round. And countries around the world use some form of ranking technique for the same reason.
The ranked choice voting procedure under consideration in Question 1 on the June 12 ballot in Maine would ensure that in primary elections for state legislative and gubernatorial nominees, and primary and general elections for U.S. House and Senate positions, the winners would have approval, or at least acceptance, from a majority of the voters.
The question arises, why are U.S. jurisdictions resistant to modifying current voting procedures? Is it because political party leaders, who think they know better than the electorate what is best for the state or the country, see an advantage for their candidates if they do not have to win majority support to take office?
No voting procedure is perfect, but ranked choice holds out the promise of reducing the partisanship that currently stands in the way of fully functioning government in our state and in Washington.