Like a lot of people, Krist Novoselic opens up his Facebook page and cringes. Friends on the political left attack friends on the political right, and Novoselic sees the discourse going straight down the drain. An independent who may not vote for either major party candidate for U.S. president, he sometimes feels accosted as a spoiler by his friends because he’s not supporting their candidate.

The former bass player for the rock band Nirvana has an idea for stopping the noise: Ranked-choice voting. Novoselic barnstormed Portland on Monday in support of the ballot measure facing Maine voters on Nov. 8. Novoselic is speaking out in support of Question 5, because he says it will help promote election reform by giving voters more choices. The proposal would introduce ranked-choice voting in primaries and general elections for U.S. senators, U.S. representatives, members of the Maine Legislature and the state’s governor. Portland uses ranked-choice voting in its mayoral elections.

Long active politically, Novoselic is traveling the country to support election reform. He cited Maine’s ballot initiative as an important part of the national reform effort. “Ranked-choice voting in Maine is so important, because it’s the model for the rest of the country,” he said in an interview at the Portland Press Herald.

Novoselic, who also played briefly in the Foo Fighters, has been politically active much of his adult life, and has made election reform a key issue. His interest in the issue stems from his desire to see more candidates and more views represented on the ballot. Now 51, he recently earned his college degree and started playing with a couple of bands back home in Washington.

He was scheduled to play a fundraiser for ranked-choice voting Monday night at Bayside Bowl. First, he stopped in to the newsroom to discuss the issue. This conversation has been edited slightly for length and clarity:

Q: Welcome to Maine. Why are you here?


A: I am here to promote ranked-choice voting in Maine, Question 5 on the ballot on Nov. 8, urging Mainers to vote yes for meaningful election reform, for more choices on the ballot, to vote for a candidate that you really want to vote for without worrying you are going to elect someone you really, really don’t like.

Q: Give me some examples of that.

A: So you get this ballot, and you rank your favorite candidate as your first choice, your second (and) third choice and so on. If you first choice gets a majority of votes, they’re elected and the election is over. But if there is no majority, then they kick out the last-place candidate and they redistribute those second and third choices to the remaining candidates, and maybe that’s enough to get someone elected. It’s kind of like having a primary election. You vote in the primary election, and if the candidate you vote for wins the primary, you vote for them again in the general election. But if your candidate doesn’t win the primary, you need a second choice in the general election. So what ranked-choice voting does – it asks you to do all that on one ballot.

Q: One of the criticisms is that it may be confusing to some people.

A: Our system right now is confusing to so many people. Whoever makes that charge that ranked-choice voting is confusing – first of all, people rank things all the time. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? What’s your favorite travel destination? Second of all, if you look at election systems holistically, they’re very complicated. Who draws the districts that we live in? How do they draw the districts that we live in? It’s all this complicated, sophisticated data. Who determines who’s going to be this nominee? These are all complicated social processes. Ranked-choice voting is very simple. You get a ballot – one, two, three, (and) you elect your favorite candidate.

Q: You’ve been politically active for some time. You’ve debated running for office in the past. Are you thinking about running for an office? What would prompt you to run?


A: I’d have to want to move to Olympia or Washington, D.C., and I am very happy living in rural Washington state. I am active in my local Grange. I know the Grange is really important in Maine. I’m the master of my Grange, and I am community-oriented. I graduated from college last May with a degree in social sciences, and the next thing I know I am in two bands. So, I am happy advocating for election reform. I think it’s cutting edge, I think it’s really needed and the more people I talk to about it, people are really receptive. It’s really nice to talk to Mainers, and they’re all like, ‘Yeah, we are voting yes on ranked-choice voting because we need change, and I wanted more choice. I’m tired of all the negativity.’ With ranked-choice voting, there is empirical scientific data, there is evidence that there is less negative campaigning with ranked-choice voting.

Q: Why was it important for you to get your degree?

A: I went to school on a lark. My nephew was going to school that first Monday morning in September, to community college, and I just jumped in the car with him. It was crazy. But I stuck with it. I went to community college for a year and studied hard, but it was kind of a commute – and something about going to school every day. And then I saw this sign that said, ‘Earn your degree in your pajamas at Washington State University.’ So I applied and got accepted. It took me six years to get my degree, because I was still playing music, I was doing election reform. I just did it. Great experience, I recommend it for anyone I know. College can be expensive, and it’s a real time commitment.

Q: Are you going to watch the debate Wednesday?

A: What am I doing Wednesday? Probably not. I have watched part of one of the debates. I would watch the debate if there were more candidates in there and if it was a lively debate. But I know what to expect.


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