LINCOLNVILLE — Although, like a lot of people, I have always generally taken a somewhat active interest in politics beyond voting, not much has motivated me to get off my butt and try to help “spread the gospel” regarding any particular cause or candidate. Ranked-choice voting and the implications it holds for the betterment of our democracy has changed that for me. So convinced am I that ranked-choice voting is the key to a truly healthy democratic future that if I were only allowed to advocate for one thing politically ever again, more than any other cause or candidate, it would be this.

It’s not Donald Trump’s fault. It’s not Bernie Sanders’ fault. It’s not the fault of Hillary Clinton or Ralph Nader or Eliot Cutler or Libby Mitchell or Paul LePage or Mike Michaud or the Democrats or the Republicans or the progressives. It’s the system.

It’s the system we use to vote that is to blame for yielding results that do not give a true reflection of public sentiment or leave any elected official with a true feeling of majority mandate or support. It’s the system that many times leaves election winners feeling combative, like they still have to convince large swaths of the public they’re legitimate, and leaves election losers and their supporters feeling robbed, cheated and underrepresented.

It is the current voting system that is responsible for that sinking feeling many of us have when we walk into the voting booth and are afraid to vote for who we really want because it might end up inadvertently helping our least favorite candidate the most. And it is that same feeling, caused by that same system, that breeds the cynicism that discourages participation by both voters and potential candidates alike.

We are taught from a young age that the success or failure of our democracy is dependent on our willingness to participate in it, that people have died for us to have the freedoms and rights we have, and that in order to honor that sacrifice and fulfill our duty as citizens, it is important that we vote, and for those of us inclined to do so, enter into public service.

Yet the voting system we have now sends the exact opposite message. It says to the voter, “If you’re thinking about voting for anyone but one of the two major-party candidates, you’re wasting your vote, or worse, you’ll help the enemy.” And it says to any potential candidate, “Unless you’re the selected favorite of one of the two major parties, please don’t run lest you ruin it for one of them.”

In other words, the way we currently vote creates circumstances in the voting process that completely contradict the democratic values we are taught as kids and encouraged to believe in as adults.

There are myriad other failures and shortcomings consequential to this system as well: It provides maximum opportunity for the influence of money, it encourages polarization on issues due to a lack of diversity of voices in the public discourse, it hobbles the ability for any third party (much less fourth, fifth or beyond) from ever having a chance to establish itself, just to name a few.

Look where we are today and ask yourself if all of this isn’t true of our current political situation. It is not any particular party or individual that has put us here. This is where voting by plurality has gotten us. “One person, one vote” should really be called “less choice, less voice.”

Fortunately, ranked-choice voting offers major relief from, if not an outright solution to, all of these issues simply by adding one element to the voting process: the ability to rank the candidates on the ballot from your most favorite to your least favorite. That’s it.

And here’s the thing, as unbelievable as it sounds: Maine voters and courts have already supported ranked-choice voting! The only reason it hasn’t been implemented is resistance by many of those put in power by the “less choice, less voice” method.

In November 2016, ranked-choice voting passed by the second-largest margin for a referendum in the state’s history. It should have been implemented immediately. Instead, in 2017, the Legislature tried to kill it, then found itself facing a people’s veto effort. In the dead of winter, in subzero temperatures, hundreds of volunteers went back out on the street to collect signatures to force a second referendum.

Just recently, the Maine Senate tried to sue to stop the use of ranked-choice in the primary, but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court sided with the people. As a result, next month, people will be voting on the future of ranked-choice voting at the same time we are using it in the primaries – and I think people will see how easy it is to use and, at the same time, will see how they will have a greater voice in their democracy.

And so here we are. The next hurdle for putting ranked-choice voting in place is for voters to go to the polls June 12 and vote “yes” on Question 1. It’s important to know that you do not have to be registered with any party in order to vote on Question 1. You only have to be registered to vote, period. Let’s get it done! Vote “yes” on Question 1!

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