August 18, 2013

Another View: 'Top two' primary best solution to Maine's electoral issues

This system would welcome independent voters and give all qualifying candidates a voice.


Having researched this issue when the Legislature considered ranked-preference voting in the past session, I share Alan Caron's opinion that a new primary procedure is needed ("Old two-party election system fails us, so let's change it," Aug. 8).

After much consideration, the "top two" primary used in California for several cycles seems to offer the best solution.

The single open primary runoff offers all qualifying candidates a chance to be heard and welcomes independent voters to the earliest stage of political decision-making. It also is the least expensive system for the state election officials to organize and conduct.

The two chosen finalists would have the opportunity to hone their messages and respond to the concerns of the electorate before the final election. The present closed system asks unaffiliated independent voters to pay for a primary election in which they cannot participate. The blanket system would encourage independent voters to get involved in the process.

The system has been ruled constitutional in Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party (U.S. Supreme Court, 2008) and has worked successfully in several elections in several states. This system could be enacted for the next election cycle if passed by the current Maine Legislature in its next session.

This change, along with a full-disclosure law of all political campaign contributions of more than $1,000, would be meaningful reform to restore the credibility of representative government of, by and for the people.

Robert Libby is a resident of Chebeague Island.


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