AUGUSTA — Ranked-choice voting was approved by a Maine electorate that is tired of seeing polarizing candidates win elections without majority support. They are tired of being told to vote “strategically” for the candidate with the best chance of winning, rather than being free to vote for the candidate they truly prefer. They are tired of multi-candidate campaigns in which partisan attacks and scorched-earth politics are par for the course as each candidate tries to gin up their base.

Perhaps more than anything, Mainers supported ranked-choice voting because they believed their voices didn’t matter as much as they should. The Legislature’s decision to ignore the referendum results by delaying and repealing the law was a slap in the face because it confirmed that belief.

By allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference and conducting instant runoffs until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote, ranked-choice voting allows Mainers to vote their hopes, not their fears. Both of us have been vocal supporters. Our disappointment in the Legislature’s decision to block the law is profound – not just because the Legislature got it wrong, but also because it missed so many opportunities to get it right.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion in May, stating that using ranked-choice voting for legislative and gubernatorial elections would violate provisions of the Maine Constitution adopted in the 19th century. While many supporters of ranked-choice voting disagreed with the court’s opinion, it nevertheless indicates that the integrity of results from elections conducted via ranked-choice voting would be questioned. Legal challenges would almost certainly follow such an election, and results could very well be overturned.

We brought a constitutional amendment before the Legislature in an effort to avoid the prospect of post-election uncertainty. The amendment won bipartisan support, including an affirmative vote from every Democrat in the Legislature. But it died in the face of opposition from a handful of Republican lawmakers.

Later, the Legislature considered several proposals to implement portions of the ranked-choice voting law for which the Supreme Judicial Court had not raised any constitutional concerns: primary elections and general elections for Congress. To our surprise, those efforts were similarly rejected along partisan lines.


In the end, despite ample time to craft a better, bipartisan solution, the Legislature approved a bill to delay implementation for four years, at which point the law will be repealed unless a constitutional amendment is adopted. This bill was crafted by ranked-choice voting opponents, who feel confident that such an amendment will never pass.

We continue to believe that a constitutional amendment is the clearest, most direct way to implement ranked-choice voting for Maine’s elections, and to ensure the integrity of those elections’ results. At the earliest opportunity, we will submit legislation to put such an amendment before Maine’s voters. If unsuccessful, we’ll continue to do so until Mainers get the election reform that they have already demanded.

Ranked-choice voting guarantees that elections are won by candidates whom a majority of voters supported. It removes the incentive to “go negative” on the campaign trail by creating an incentive for candidates to appeal to voters outside their small, energized base. Those are goals every candidate for the Legislature should support.

But as this year made clear, a constitutional amendment will not pass in the current Legislature. So as candidates for the Legislature begin their campaigns for election in 2018, we urge all Mainers who support election reform to ask them this: If you’re elected, will you support a constitutional amendment for ranked-choice voting?

The fate of ranked-choice voting will ultimately depend on how winning candidates answer that question. Voters demanded election reform, and it’s our responsibility to ensure they get it. We hope you’ll join us.

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