Last November, Maine voters sent a message that they wanted a political system that works better – where candidates can compete fairly in a positive debate of ideas and solutions, rather than a negative war to the bottom.

They were, and are, tired of a system that limits choice and stacks the deck in favor of candidates who have institutional or special interest support, with deep pockets and heavily scripted campaigns.

Voters were clear. They wanted a smarter, fairer way to cast their ballots, and they wanted real election reform that would put them back in charge.

By historic numbers, Maine people voted in favor of a citizens initiative that made our state the first to enact ranked-choice voting into law.

We have always supported nonpartisan, pro-democracy reforms for the same reasons that we support ranked-choice voting: the promise for more civility during election season, respectful dialogue and the reward of consensus candidates emerging as winners.

Ultimately, 388,273 Maine people from across the political spectrum shared this vision for change and together we delivered the second largest vote in favor of a referendum in our state’s history.

Lawmakers have an obligation to do what they think is right. But they also have the responsibility to listen to voters who are empowered by the Constitution to take direct action to enact policies they support.

Just seven months ago, voters told us they wanted ranked-choice voting and that they wanted us to make our elections stronger. That citizen-initiated law is being threatened this week with full repeal in our Legislature.

Maine people are both astonished and frustrated by this – and rightly so. Many have asked, how can a few legislators in Augusta be permitted to overturn the political will of nearly 400,000 Mainers in order to protect the status quo? We fully acknowledge the answer is that Maine’s Legislature has full authority to repeal or change any law by majority vote. But having the ability to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Maine is both a representative democracy and a direct democracy, and in a healthy democracy both must be respected. We elect our fellow citizens and send them to Augusta to represent us. Since 1909, we’ve also had the constitutional right to petition our government and vote to make laws as citizens at the ballot box.

In the case of ranked-choice voting, we should be able to count on our representatives to listen to us and do what the people have resoundingly demanded: make our elections work better and help to restore faith in our government.

The Legislature should reject the unnecessary, wholesale repeal of Maine’s ranked-choice voting law and should support a common sense fix that upholds the will of the people and brings the law into constitutional compliance.

And the Legislature should pass a constitutional amendment to allow ranked-choice voting to be used in the three general elections for state offices, and send it to Maine people for ratification.

The problems associated with our current, “winner-take-all” voting system are not going away. As long as crowded fields continue to emerge for state and federal offices, as anticipated for the 2018 election cycle, we will continue to see the drama of the vote-splitting unfold, and worse, the legitimacy of our elections held in question.

The message is clear: Maine people voted to strengthen majority rule. Mainers of all political stripes will view any action by this Legislature to obstruct or delay the new law with suspicion and this will erode their confidence and respect for the Legislature’s powers.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Angus King made it plain: “My fundamental concern is not making worse this kind of distrust of government and politics and politicians.”

I couldn’t agree more. The integrity of our institutions of government is wrapped up in the Legislature’s action on ranked-choice voting.

The people’s trust and confidence in government has never been lower. Ranked-choice voting empowers voters with more voice and more choice. That’s why voters enacted it.

Any attempt to repeal it would bind us in an election system that is deeply flawed and in need of improvement. And it would further erode the trust that the Maine people have in their government and in their elected officials.