HOLLIS – For the second election in a row, the winning candidate for governor in the state of Maine will be sent to Augusta with less than 40 percent of the popular vote.

In fact, in only one of the last seven gubernatorial elections since 1986 has the winner managed to receive more than 50 percent of the popular vote in Maine (Angus King’s re-election bid in 1998).

What these figures tell us is that Maine has a rich tradition of third-party candidates achieving a sizable proportion of the electoral support state-wide.

Maine voters should be proud of this strong practice of political diversity, as it is absent in most states. However, there is a drawback to this under our current electoral system, in that it often leads to a highly disproportionate outcome.

What this means is that there is a large proportion of “wasted votes” (votes cast for a losing candidate). Thus, most voters are left without their preferred representation.

In the context of this particular recent election, we can imagine that given a choice between only two candidates — Eliot Cutler and Paul Le- Page — voters who supported Libby Mitchell would be more likely to have cast a vote for Cutler, meaning that more than 56 percent of the Maine electorate preferred and voted for a candidate on the center-left of the political spectrum.

However, due to the way that votes translate into seats in Maine, the outcome was, of course, that neither of these candidates was the winner.

This is largely because Maine, like the vast majority of other states in the country, has a system of what we in political science call “first past the post.”

This means simply that the candidate with the most votes wins — whether or not he or she gains a majority (which is 50 percent plus one vote).

This system normally forces voters to vote “strategically,” meaning that we are essentially forced to choose between two candidates (usually a Republican or a Democrat) who we believe have a realistic chance at winning, instead of voting for our preferred candidate (if this “preferred candidate” is not one of the two favorites in the polls, of course).

I argue that a switch to majoritarian, two-round voting would be a vast improvement to the Maine governor’s election.

This system, used in France, for example, forces the winning candidate to have more than 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate manages to win more than 50 percent of the vote on Election Day, a runoff is held (usually about two to three weeks afterward) with only the top two vote-getters.

Thus, voters have a chance to vote for any candidate in the first round, and given that no candidate wins more than 50 percent, their vote is not “wasted,” as they will have a chance to vote for one of the two largest candidates most in line with their preferences in the second round.

So picture, for example, you, as a voter, want to give support to an independent liberal (or conservative) candidate but fear that your vote for this person will, in fact, help the Republican (or Democrat) get elected.

This would not be a worry in the majoritarian, runoff system, as you would have a “second chance,” provided that no candidate received support from the majority of Mainers.

The outcome would thus be fairer and there would undoubtedly fewer Mainers who disdainfully cast a vote for one of the two “expected winners,” only wishing to have given their support to one that they truly preferred, be it an independent, third-party or simply less-financed candidate.

Although a bit more costly, this system would be an excellent way of providing more voter satisfaction by improving electoral choice and enhancing the legitimacy and strength of mandate for the winner, who would be sent to Augusta with the support of more than half of the electorate.

Such types of reforms are certainly not without precedent in the United States. For reasons that suit their local needs, other states like California have chosen to reform their electoral systems.

Maine voters should also demand electoral system reform that suits the state’s rich tradition of third-party candidates and that would lead to greater choice and more democratic outcomes.