Tens of millions of Americans have died defending our American values, the most fundamental of which is democracy. Merriam-Webster defines democracy as “government by the people; especially: rule of the majority.”
When I read the opinion piece titled “A solution in search of a problem” (published in this paper on Jan. 25), I was very upset. Why, get so worked up about a voting system, you ask? Because some people (namely the author of this piece, the secretary of state of Maine, members of our elected legislature) have lost touch with our democratic values. They’ve lost touch with the majority of Mainers. They’ve disrespected our most fundamental principle and all those who put their lives on the line to defend it.
I have spent many days on the streets collecting nearly a thousand signatures as a volunteer to restore our majority-approved ranked choice voting law. Time and again, I hear from fellow Mainers who are upset at the erosion of our democratic process. “But this already passed,” they say. “Why is the Legislature undoing all of our referendums?” Not one person has asked me about the cost of implementing RCV. Not one person expressed concerned about the possibility of using two ballots. Not one person said they were worried about tabulation delays and transportation concerns. It’s not because Mainers are ignorant. We value our hard-won democracy and believe that it is worth maintaining, at whatever financial and logistical cost.
The opinion piece states “All this leaves RCV proponents undeterred in their efforts to upset 170 years of historical precedent in Maine.” Since when has historic precedent been a reason to carry on with an inadequate system? Slavery was legal in the United States at the time of its birth and continued for 89 years. I think we’d all agree that its longevity did not justify its continuation.
I also find it interesting that the author of this piece predicts the future with such certainty. We are told that “delays in reporting results will erode the public’s confidence.” I’m not so certain. I think (from talking to hundreds of people on the streets) that it is possible that the people are willing to wait to hear who will govern our state, as elected with the support of the majority of Mainers (over 50 percent). There are, after all, at least 72 days between Election Day and inauguration day.
What truly erodes the public’s confidence is the total dismissal of our most democratic exercise in Maine — the citizen initiatives. That’s the one time that every voter gets an equal say on an issue. What could be more American than that? Our Maine state motto is Dirigo, which translates to “I direct” or “I lead.” The people of Maine are ready to lead the way forward, to a better election system, to a truer democracy. I hope that our government and our media will join us as we move forward.