August 8, 2013

Alan Caron: Old two-party election system fails us, so let's change it

Runoffs or a new primary system could help Maine elect leaders with the skills to win majorities.

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An independent primary. This would keep the party primaries in June but add a ballot for voters who are not registered with a party, allowing them to pick a nominee from among the independent candidates.

The November ballot would then be restricted to party nominees and one unenrolled nominee. That could also help level the playing field among candidates, since party candidates are currently allowed to raise more money per donor than others.

Toughen ballot access. This would require all candidates to demonstrate far more support than they now do, and would have the added benefit of taking up less of the public's patience, air time and money.

Whatever options we choose, change is becoming imperative. The problem of fractured, minority government is here to stay, and won't be fixed by electing the right person next time.

The system has to adapt if we want to build a more robust economy and effective government.

But change can only occur in one of two ways. The Legislature can find the courage and wisdom to finally address this issue, or the voters can take matters into their own hands by initiative. I'm hoping for the first, but betting on the second.

Alan Caron is president of Envision Maine, a nonprofit organization that promotes Maine's next economy, and a partner at the Caron & Egan Consulting Group. He can be contacted at:


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