By Ted Koffman
Throughout our history, groups of citizens have struggled to gain the right to vote. When our Founding Fathers created our Constitution, they gave voting rights exclusively to male property owners. Jews, Quakers and Catholics were barred from voting or running for office in several colonies and states. Following the Civil War, in 1870, the 15th Amendment allowed non-white men to vote, and 50 years later the 17th Amendment allowed women to vote. But poll taxes, voter registration restrictions and intimidation stalled progress and diminished the potential for our democracy.
Maine, among our sister states, is outstanding for making voting easy for citizens. In 2016, a large majority of Maine voters supported enacting ranked choice voting. In situations when more than two candidates are in a race, which is common in Maine, winners are often elected with the support of fewer than 50 percent of voters and, in too many instances, fewer than 40 percent of voters. In nine of the last 11 races for Maine’s governor, the winning candidates were elected by fewer than half of all voters.
To win elections with a majority support using a ranked-choice ballot, candidates must reach beyond their base, talk with more voters and ask for their support. Candidates with the ability to attract first and second choice rankings, and build majority coalitions, are more likely to win ranked-choice elections and govern as consensus builders. Ranked choice voting, sometimes called “instant-runoff voting,” will ensure our elected leaders are chosen by a majority of Maine voters. It gives us the opportunity to vote for the candidate or candidates we like the best.
Regrettably, the Legislature disregarded the will of the people and repealed the law. In response, in February this year 80,000 citizens petitioned for a people’s veto on the June 12 ballot to restore the ranked choice voting law. Voters, including those not enrolled in a party, may vote “Yes” on Question 1 to protect ranked choice voting.
Folks in communities with conservative, moderate and liberal majorities have preferred ranked choice voting. It’s the next step to improve Maine’s election process.
Ted Koffman, a Democrat, served in the Maine House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008. He lives in Bar Harbor.