By Dennis S. Damon
It is time for the voters of Maine to exercise their most basic democratic responsibility. It is time to vote in the June 12 primary election.
For the first time in a Maine statewide election voters will be able to cast their ballot using ranked choice voting (RCV). Voters will rank their choices from most favorite to least favorite. Simple. No complex strategy. No worrying about “If I do this, how will it affect that?” “Am I wasting my vote?” Just vote! And by the way, if it really is too difficult to decide which rank order you prefer, you can vote for only one candidate. Just vote!
My earliest memory of voting was in second grade. I think we were voting on whether to have a graham cracker or a cookie with our milk. The teacher explained we would get the snack receiving the most votes. She said, “That’s how democracy works, the majority wins, it is the will of the people.” Democracy 101 – check.
Although second grade gave me the opportunity to vote, subsequent grades and life experiences emphasized my responsibility to vote and the importance of voting to preserve our democracy.
Elections have become more complex. There are often more than two people running for the same position. As a result, very often, we elect the “winner” without him or her gaining a majority of the votes. The winner receives only a plurality. That means he or she has received more votes than the other candidates. However, he or she has not received a majority, more than half the votes. A minority wins. The winner has not received the will of the people. That is not how democracy was designed to work. Democracy 101 — revisit, refresh, return.
Ranked choice voting is the best attempt to ensure whichever candidate is elected to serve us receives the will of the people. Ranked choice voting is the law in Maine. It has twice received a majority vote in statewide elections. It is the will of the people. Yet, astonishingly, it is still being challenged. The Maine Republican Party has filed a lawsuit to stop RCV.
The Ellsworth American newspaper, a staunch and consistent opponent of ranked choice voting, has, to its credit, criticized the Republican Party’s suit in its May 10, 2018, editorial titled “Enough’s enough,” saying, “The people who voted for it — twice — have spoken, the Maine Supreme Court has spoken … the Republican lawsuit is sowing confusion at a time when the best interests of voters demands clarity.”
It is time. It is time to vote for the candidates of your choice if you are enrolled in a party. And it is time for everyone, enrolled or unenrolled, to vote, again, for ranked choice voting in Maine. Referendum Question 1 on the ballot deserves and needs your “Yes.” Perhaps, most importantly, it is time to stop trying to undermine and undo the will of the people. It is time to move Maine forward. Vote.
Dennis S. Damon is a former Maine state senator who lives in Trenton.