Last week, an editorial under the heading “Strong turnout” celebrated voting numbers from the towns on and around Mount Desert Island. Yes, we can and should be proud that citizens took an interest in the primary election. Regionally (MDI, Trenton, Swan’s, Frenchboro and the Cranberries) turnout was 34 percent. The lowest was 23 percent, the highest (Bar Harbor) 38.5 percent.
A recent article in the Washington Post, “Canada is not your Utopia,” draws a sharp contrast. Author David Moscrop, a Canadian himself, takes issue with descriptions that call his country “the poster child for decency — a pastoral, brave, beautiful and welcoming land …” As evidence of the false Canadian promise, Moscrop says “voter turnout is low, typically under 70 percent …” Yep. 70 percent. Now that’s a country whose people know what to do with the right to vote.
Despite dire predictions of electoral chaos and voter confusion, ranked choice voting was used for the first time in a statewide election without undue difficulty. Yes, it took about a week to process the results in those elections where there was not a majority winner, but it still left 139 shopping days until the November general election. That’s plenty of time for the primary winners and qualifying independents to carry on campaigning.
The week spent gathering and tabulating ballots was surely hard on anxious candidates, but all plurality winners went on to become majority winners, so there is little cause to challenge the results.
The only other glitch of any significance was that in five municipalities (including Ellsworth and Orland in Hancock County), some of the digital files sent to Augusta were unreadable by the tabulating computers. Those ballots had to be rescanned. When the results were in, the winning candidates had fairly broad support.
What the maiden voyage of RCV did not show was what would happen in a race where the votes were more evenly distributed or in which anyone could be identified as a “spoiler.” Of the seven Democratic candidates, three earned a scant 7.5 percent of the votes among them. Two others took an additional 30 percent, meaning five of them had only a bit more than one-third of the votes among them. Unsuccessful Democrats Adam Cote, Mark Eves and Betsy Sweet were quick to urge support of the winner, Janet Mills.
On the Republican side, Shawn Moody won a majority vote walking away. No spoiler in that race either. This uncontroversial rollout of RCV does not mean Republicans will cease their efforts to kill it off. Far from it. With some tortured math, one Republican writer worked to support his theory that “11 percent of Democratic votes [were] rendered invalid.” This is not over.
There were random “also-ran” stories to chase. Max Linn, the disqualified U.S. Senate candidate who wallpapered the area with campaign signs and, just days before the election, sent out a mailing insisting that votes for him would be counted (they weren’t) has now suggested a future run against Sen. Susan Collins.
Zak Ringelstein, Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Angus King, shuffled off to Texas to weigh in on the child detention crisis. His plan was to deliver toys, books and blankets to the detention center, vowing to do so even if he risked arrest (he did). According to his Facebook page, he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing, describing himself as a “political prisoner of the Trump regime.” Nah. Just a trespasser.
Ringelstein claimed credit for child detention protests going on around Maine following his arrest, credit that he probably doesn’t deserve. Federal agents carefully explained to Ringelstein how and where to deliver his contributions if his goal was to get them to detained children, but he was not to be deterred in his quest for arrest. Note to Democrats: Don’t go there.
The Republican candidate trying to take Angus King down is state Sen. Eric Brakey. His opening gambit is a dance video, meant to make light of a commercial he filmed years ago for which he was roundly derided, though he did win his state election.
The new video shows a grimly serious Brakey donning a jacket, tightening his tie and then busting some moves in front of the Cross Office Building at the State House. There follows a cute little dancing dog, more human dancers, a large dog-like figure in firefighter’s turnout gear, Brakey from the original ad dancing in his briefs (eew), kids doing cartwheels, Brakey grooving to the beat in a tree, then Brakey closing with his intention to “fight for your right to live free whether you dance or not.”
Angus King needs to do little more than stand quietly, in all his rational, sensible, intelligent glory, to come out on top of these ill-fated party candidates.