Maine’s spring primary results are in. We now know who the political party candidates will be for the November elections for governor and Congress, as well as the state Legislature. The victors should be recognized for their successful efforts and thanked for their willingness to make the commitment to serve their fellow citizens.
Given the climate of government today and the pressures and forces applied to our elected officials, one wonders why individuals would subject themselves and their families to the negative aspects of public service. We all should reflect on the corrosive effects of negative campaigning. Its long-term impact is a disincentive for the potential pool of people willing to run for office. Critical review is one thing; personal attacks and ridicule are quite another.
We now also have the opportunity to review our first ranked choice voting election with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight. The table had been set for potential problems, despite predictions to the contrary, so hiccups were a realistic expectation. The tabulation gestation period of eight days for determining the Democratic gubernatorial victor, however, raised anew questions about eroding voter confidence. We continue to wonder: What if the results had been contested? What if a recount had been necessary, with one or maybe two candidates challenging the results? Eight days without a declared winner could become 28 days, which would inevitably lead to less voter confidence.
With an abundant field of 11 gubernatorial candidates, four Republicans and seven Democrats, RCV didn’t change the initial results. Shawn Moody swept the Republican field with a large majority, while eventual Democratic winner Janet Mills led at the end of initial balloting. RCV didn’t result in any upsets or surprises. Are the winners better candidates as a result of an RCV election, with one clear majority from one side and still a plurality winner on the opposing side?
Ranked choice is the law of the land. All sides and constituencies should get behind it and give it a fair tryout. But let’s not stop there. The goal of voting advocates should be more participation in each election. Maine’s policy that leaves independents out of primary balloting continues to be a major shortcoming. The Legislature has work to do here. Lawmakers can restore confidence by making party affiliation a non-issue in our next state elections.