I admit I wasn’t super invested in the Portland City Council races – mostly because I neither live nor work in Portland – but that was before the sudden, thrilling, absurdist drama of a ranked-choice voting tie. Like, what are even the numerical odds of that happening? And then they broke the tie by drawing a name? Out of a wooden salad bowl? Whose price the city clerk, when asked, refused to disclose? Not only is truth stranger than fiction, but it’s funnier, too.

Now, I know they had to have a tie-breaker in order to declare a winner and a loser so that a recount could be properly requested. And on Wednesday, Roberto Rodriguez was declared the winner. Congratulations are in order to everyone involved, from all the campaigns.

But it got me to thinking, Maine needs to be better prepared the next time an election results in a tie. Besides, with America’s confidence in election integrity at an all-time low, we need to have some methods of choosing our elected officials in the event that nobody concedes an election.

Here are some of my ideas.

• A municipal zoning law read-aloud: Each candidate begins at the beginning of the municipal zoning laws and reads from the start to the end in separate but adjacent rooms (so they can focus better). The first candidate to fall asleep loses the election. In the unlikely event that they make it to the end of their community’s zoning bylaws in one go without falling asleep, the candidates will proceed to the zoning bylaws of the surrounding communities, alphabetically by town and city name. Candidates will be monitored in shifts by highly caffeinated election workers.

• Dog sled race: Candidates must use their own dogs. In the event a candidate does not have a dog, one will be provided to them by the local animal shelter.

• To honor Maine’s culture and heritage, a lobstering contest could be used to select our representatives. Both speed (fastest trap hauling) and endurance (most lobsters caught in a single day on the water) must be on the table as options.

• The maze run: Candidates start at the York toll plaza and must make their way up to Bar Harbor on a sunny day in July. The first one there wins. I think there should also be publicly broadcast dashboard cameras, both to prevent cheating and also because it would be hilarious. (The livestream would have to be limited to citizens over 18, because of the inevitable foul language.)

• The winter challenges: Two cars of the same make and model (probably a 2014 Subaru Forester if this takes place in Maine) are presented covered in an equivalent amount of ice/snow/frost. The candidate who clears their car off the fastest wins the election. A variant on this is the dead car contest: Two identical or equivalent cars are presented to the candidates. The cars’ batteries are completely dead. Whichever candidate gets the car moving under its own power first wins the election. Ideally, this will happen as the temperature outside is quickly dropping or the candidate is running late for work.

• The test run contest: The two candidates are presented with a bill and all of the members of the city council or other legislative body they are attempting to join (including candidates who have won their election but have not yet been officially seated). One candidate has the goal of passing it into law; the other candidate has the goal of not passing it. This also has the added benefit of ensuring the winning candidate can actually, you know, legislate and govern.

• The budgeting challenge! In this contest, the candidates must purchase a home, priced at the most recent median Maine home cost of $320,000, using the median Maine household income of $57,918. But wait, there’s a twist! Just as the candidates manage to thread the needle and balance the budget, they are hit with an unexpected four-figure medical bill! The candidate who doesn’t ruin their family’s financial future wins.

These might seem like ridiculous ways to decide our governmental representatives, but they’re at least as good as drawing a name out of a bowl. And they are definitely better than the current method of winning elections: raising enormous gobs of money. That’s a great skill if you’re auditioning to be head fundraiser for a nonprofit, but it has a pretty crummy track record of producing elected officials who actually improve the lives of their constituents.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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