The old saw that politics makes for strange bedfellows found new relevance on May 21. On that date, Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, found support in the wisdom of California’s uber-liberal Democrat Governor, Jerry Brown.
At issue was ranked choice voting, which is a contender for top topic as we prepare for the June 12 Primary elections. Maine Republicans officially oppose this new method of balloting, calling it “the number one voting suppression threat in Maine.”
In support of that contention, Savage quotes his new soul mate, Jerry: “In a time when we want to encourage more voter participation, we need to keep voting simple. Ranked choice voting is overly complicated and confusing. I believe it deprives voters of genuinely informed choice.”
We do not understand why ranked choice voting has become a partisan issue, but it has. Simply stated: Republicans, no; Democrats, yes. Go figure. We do understand Governor Brown’s statement that it’s too complicated. But these are equal-opportunity, nonpartisan complications.
Our conversations with town clerks in Hancock County municipalities confirm that the implementation of ranked choice voting is likely to result in confusion for voters and frustration for ballot clerks who are not allowed to provide guidance beyond reading aloud the ballot and the ballot instructions.
Unclear, also, is when the final results will be made known. Individual town votes may be available on election night, but those will not be the whole story. Unless one individual garners more than 50 percent of the votes cast in a majority of the precinct, we’ll all have to wait until the Secretary of State’s computer does the final sort. The declaration of winners could take days in contests involving three of more candidates. And Maine has such contests: for governor, both parties, and for the Democratic candidates for the Second District congressional seat.
And recounts. What about recounts? How long until a winner is declared? Did we mention that, under the Maine Constitution, ranked choice cannot be used to decide state-level contests in the General Election? Get out the aspirin. Here’s a second ballot.
True, Governor LePage and many other Maine governors have won election (or re-election) with a plurality (example: 38 percent) of the votes cast rather than a majority (50 percent, plus 1). We believe open primaries and two-round runoff elections are simpler, more equitable methods for choosing our leaders. On June 12, we recommend voting no on Question 1 — a people’s veto referendum that would repeal a law passed by the Maine Legislature suspending the implementation of ranked choice voting.