January 18, 2013

Letters to the editor: 'Instant runoff' right for governor's race

Maine's governor should have the support of a majority of voters, and the best way to ensure that support is to provide for "ranked-choice voting" (also known as "instant runoff voting").

click image to enlarge

Voting results for each candidate are displayed Nov. 9, 2011, the day after Michael Brennan was elected mayor of Portland by ranked-choice voting. This system, in which voters express their preferences for more than their first choices, would be a good way to select the next governor of Maine, readers say.

2011 File Photo/Gregory Rec

Portland's 2011 mayoral election demonstrated that this system works well and does not add significant expense or delay.

Since more Maine voters are independents than members of any political party, we can expect a number of candidates to run for governor.

If there are more than two candidates, it is entirely possible that no candidate will receive a majority of the vote. Voters should have the opportunity when they vote to express their preference for their second and additional choices if their preferred candidate does not receive a majority of the vote.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a process of eliminating candidates and transferring votes would begin.

First, the candidate who received the lowest number of first choice votes is eliminated from the race. Voters who selected the eliminated candidate as their first choice will have their vote transferred to their second choice.

If any candidate has a majority after the redistributed votes are counted, then that candidate is declared the winner.

If still no candidate has a majority of the vote, then the process of eliminating candidates and transferring votes is repeated until one candidate has a majority.

That way, the ultimate winner will be the candidate who best reflects the will of the voters.

Andrew and Lindsey Cadot

Portland

To improve your health, don't focus on weight loss

It's that time of year again when many will resolve to lose weight. Most people accept as fact that weight loss will improve health. Yet no study has unequivocally proven this to be true.

In fact, studies have consistently shown that weight cycling leads to more weight gain over time, increased risk of premature death, increased risk of binge eating, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, and increased risk of depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Studies also consistently show that 95 to 99 percent of dieters will regain the weight that was lost and often more.

A recent study in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association barely made news, but revealed that adults with body mass indexes between 25 and 29 ("overweight" by current U.S. standards) are at decreased risk of mortality compared to "normal"-weight adults.

Adults with BMIs between 30 and 34 ("obese" by current U.S. standards) are at no greater risk of mortality than "normal"-weight adults. The fact is that it is more dangerous to be five pounds underweight than it is to be 75 pounds "overweight."

The industries profiting from our obsession with weight loss hope the truth remains a secret and dieters continue to feel like failures.

Studies show that even light amounts of physical activity and small changes in nutrition (i.e., increasing fiber) can improve health. My hope for 2013 is that more people accept their own and others' bodies as they are and focus on improving health, not losing weight.

Rhonda Lee Benner

North Yarmouth

More guns in U.S. schools won't halt more Newtowns

I listened in disbelief as a National Rifle Association spokesperson proposed that our schools hire armed guards as a solution to the decades-long plague of gun violence in this country. Add more guns? And what is next -- bulletproof vests for all students?

The idea is so convoluted, so disturbing and so disconnected from reality that I thought, "They can't be serious." If, however, they are serious, then I propose that the NRA pay the salaries of these armed guards in the tens of thousands of schools across America. In other words, NRA, "put up or shut up."

As CNN's Fareed Zakaria correctly stated, the problem is simple: There are too many guns accessible to too many people in this country. America has 5 percent of the world's population, but 50 percent of its guns. Not surprisingly, we have 30 times more gun fatalities than France does.

This must change: We urgently need a huge reduction in the number of guns in our society, starting with military-style assault weapons of any kind. Australia did it. Why can't we? Put politics aside; legislate bold, new gun control laws; enforce them. Failure to do so is a travesty against all victims, past, present and future.

Is glamorized gun violence in entertainment a problem? Sure it is. Is mental health a perennial social issue? Sure it is. As a humanitarian society, we should and do care about these issues, but let us not be distracted; let us keep focused on the real problem: guns. Too many guns.

Philip Carlo Paratore

Portland

Consider the flaws in the "let's arm our teachers" movement that has sprung up in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown:

In this country we have a right to own guns. We also have the right not to own guns. What if a teacher doesn't want to own or carry a gun? Are teachers now obligated to purchase an expensive weapon and ammunition just to feel safe going to school?

What if a teacher is having a bad day and snaps? Instead of disciplining a child who is acting out, what if the teacher shoots the child instead? What if the gun misfires, wounding or killing a student or teacher? What if a child somehow steals a teacher's gun and uses it?

Consider the "Gunfight at the OK Corral" world that gun activists envision our country becoming. Hero teachers draw their guns in crowded classrooms, shooting dead the maniacal school shooter, and magically no one gets caught in the crossfire.

Innocents get killed in real gun battles. No one has perfect aim, especially under the duress of combat. Soldiers and police officers make mistakes -- are we expecting our school teachers to be alert at any moment that it will be their responsibility to shoot the bad guy, and not manage to kill or wound any of our children in the process?

What happens if a teacher kills an innocent while killing the shooter? Will the teacher be charged with manslaughter or negligence? What if one teacher mistakes the bad guy and shoots the teacher defending students from the bad-guy shooter?

How will the courts handle such cases?

Let's keep it simple. Let's keep guns out of schools.

Ben Gadberry

Manchester

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