Opinion

Ranked choice voting means my vote doesn’t count

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I’ve voted every Election Day for 49 years. This year was the first time my vote didn’t count.

November 7th, the morning after Election Day 2018, with the dust settled and votes counted, I knew the candidates I voted for won their races for Maine State Senate and Maine House of Representatives. My candidate for Maine Governor lost.

I also voted to re-elect Maine’s Second Congressional District Congressman Bruce Poliquin, who received 1,500 more votes over three other candidates on the ballot: Democrat Jared Golden, Independent Tiffany Bond, and Independent Will Hoar.

But then Maine’s — the nation’s — longstanding policy of one man, one vote was turned upside down. You see, Maine used two different voting systems on Election Day 2018. The system used for deciding Maine’s Governor, all members of the Maine Legislature, the several county races (i.e. Registrar of Deeds), even Bond Issues, was the traditional whoever-gets-the-most-votes-wins (plurality) system.

However, the voting system used for candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives — federal government office holders —was Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

I voted for one candidate for U.S. Senator and one candidate for U.S. Congress. In the Second Congressional District race, I did not want candidates Golden, Bond, or Hoar representing me in Congress, otherwise I would have voted for one of them, not Poliquin. Why should I vote for those candidates as my second, third, or fourth choice when they’re not?

Neither, under RCV, could I vote again for Poliquin as my first, second, and third choice.

On Election Day, Congressman Poliquin prevailed with the most votes and less than a majority of votes, so RCV kicked in. Voters, like me, who voted only for Bruce Poliquin — our ballot counts were finished.

Meanwhile, voter ballots whose first choice Congressional candidate had the least votes on Election Day? Their ballots are still in play and counted again. Their second, third, and fourth choices are added to respective candidates until one Congressional candidate has a majority of votes.

According to the League of Women Voters of Maine website, “There is an unanswered question about whether the [RCV] system would be permitted under the Maine Constitution. Specifically, the Maine Constitution says that the candidate with “the plurality of votes” is elected.., rais[ing] constitutional issues for RCV in Maine…. [T]here is no clear consensus in the legal community about which argument would prevail if RCV were challenged in court.”

Earlier this year, Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court determined RCV was illegal under Maine’s Constitution. That’s why, Election Day 2018, RCV was not used in the Governor’s races nor in Maine Legislative races.

Now, Congressman Bruce Poliquin has a date with a federal court to determine if using RCV to elect Congressional Delegation Members is legal under the U.S. Constitution.

Article 1 Section 2 of the US Constitution defines how members of the U.S. House of Representatives are to be elected every two years. They are to be “…chosen…by the People,” which, to date, means a plurality of eligible votes, not a majority.

If the federal court upholds that “…chosen…by the People” means a plurality, then Congressman Poliquin’s legal team will also ask the federal court to determine if Maine can change or raise that U.S. Constitutional standard through a system like ranked choice voting.

No one likes losing elections. Not candidates, not voters. But it’s tough to imagine a reasoned judicial review disagreeing that ranked choice voting, through its turning of Maine elections into Lotteries, does disenfranchise eligible voters.

Hopefully, that conclusion is sufficient for the court to honor one man, one vote and plurality elections.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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