A majority of Mainers voted for ranked-choice voting in 2016. We want our leaders to represent all of us. This was true from the start of our state in 1820. Then and now, we want candidates we can unite behind, and enjoy the support of the largest number of us.

Ranked-choice voting allows candidates to speak to our common interests and what brings us together, reaching across partisan lines. Ranked-choice voting allows voters to express a meaningful preference among crowded fields of candidates. Our current, archaic system all too often rewards those who use fear, hate and negativity to divide us, and win because of vote-splitting and spoilers.

Between 1830 and 1880, it often took many rounds of voting in Maine elections to finally choose a candidate who had a clear majority. Frequently, a majority could not be determined by the vote alone, and elections were thrown to the Legislature and governor. Parties would often pick their own candidate, and not the candidate with the most votes.

These partisan shenanigans almost caused bloodshed in Augusta, when armed mobs gathered to protest. It was the wise and heroic leadership of Joshua Chamberlain that saved us then and allowed compromise to move us forward. In an effort to fix the problem, we changed our state constitution to allow for elections by a plurality. It was an imperfect solution that brings us to today.

Ranked-choice voting is a better system and allows for majority or plurality winners, but to do so, votes need to be tabulated in multiple rounds. The Legislature, acting on behalf of all voters, should make this technical change, which doesn’t violate the principles that caused us to change our state constitution in 1880.

We can do better, and ranked-choice voting is a better system.

M.D. “Mitch” Mitchell


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