YARMOUTH — Although I wasn’t old enough to vote in this election, the consequences of Nov. 8 will affect me and Mainers my age for years to come. To keep young, educated Mainers in the state, Maine needs a vibrant sense of civil engagement and democracy. Question 5, putting in place ranked-choice voting, will bring more democracy to a state which has “elected” a nonmajority governor on two separate occasions.

The passing of ranked-choice voting has implications not only for Maine, but for the entire nation and principle of democracy. Stanford political scientist Larry Diamond has argued that ranked-choice voting passing was the second most important vote in the United States this election. I recently interviewed Diamond to further explore why ranked-choice voting has such momentous reverberations.

At surface level, we most often think of the ranked-choice voting movement as a safeguard against electing any candidate disliked by 50 percent or more of the electorate.

However, ranked-choice voting also has potential to impact the very nature of how political campaigns are run, most prominently affecting the tone of the campaign.

“The passing of RCV will make political campaigns less likely to run negative ads or negative propaganda about competing candidates,” says Diamond.

“Research shows that negative advertising may damage your opponent but also reflects poorly on you as a candidate. Once there are more than two serious candidates it is much harder to go negative without doing damage to yourself.”

Politics without negativity, while hard to imagine given the recent divisiveness of national and local races, is key to our statewide political success.

The majority of the U.S. identifies as moderates, and one would intuitively think that the makeup of our elected officials would reflect this. However, political positions are so often held by those on the far side of either end of the spectrum. Ranked-choice voting is going to change this.

“We could have more Angus Kings winning not only in Maine but in other states. Moderate candidates of the center and third party will gain the most,” states Diamond. “I think there will be more independents and moderates, who might even hold the balance of power in legislative bodies. This could make it easier to form coalitions to get things done. The partisan warfare between Republicans and Democrats will abate.”

There couldn’t have been a more relevant time for ranked-choice voting to pass, as 58.5 percent of Americans view our president-elect unfavorably.

I’m confident that had ranked-choice voting been employed in this election, Donald Trump would not have won. This is not a partisan argument, as Hillary Clinton might not have won either (based on her 54.4 percent unfavorability ranking).

With ranked-choice voting nullifying the fear of skewing votes away from an establishment candidate, it would have instead been more likely for a supplemental, more favorably viewed candidate to enter the race.

This is sizable speculation, and the current Electoral College would be messy in combination with ranked-choice voting as it stands right now, but the point is this: By employing ranked-choice voting, we can choose the best leaders, not the most extreme. In 2018 and for years to come, elected officials will always hold the majority ideals of the Maine constituency in high regard.

Ranked-choice voting has the potential to work in states nationwide, and maybe one day on a national level. Its passing in Maine gives huge momentum to the movement in other states. Equally as important, though, will be the concrete proof of how ranked-choice voting affects future elections in Maine.

“The spread of RCV will be incremental,” voices Diamond. “Progress will depend in part on how RCV is seen to be working out in Maine – will it make a positive difference there? If it is seen to work in Maine, then I think the momentum for it will gain rapidly. There is already strong interest in Minnesota and some other states.”

Maine is leading the way in this movement for more democracy, not only putting the state on the map but proving to the nation at large that we, as Mainers, stand up for the public good and act in our majorities’ best interest.

There’s nothing more American, or more Maine, than that. The passing of Question 5 will help keep the young people of my generation in Maine.On an election night marked by bitter divisiveness and tension leaving many feeling voiceless and questioning their patriotism, the passing of ranked-choice voting is a beacon of hope that makes me and the young people across our state proud to be Mainers.

— Special to the Telegram