Maine has one of the strongest state-level democracies in the country. Voting rights are vigorously protected; even people serving time in state prison can cast a ballot. It’s also easy to vote, with no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration.

The Pine Tree State reduces the influence of money in politics through the Maine Clean Election Act, which allows state candidates to qualify for campaign grants if they attract sufficient local support and swear off big money. And most famously, Maine has ranked-choice voting for primaries and federal elections. Twice affirmed by popular vote, ranked-choice voting has been such a success here that other jurisdictions (including Alaska and New York City) are following suit.

Despite all that, however, there are still two major flaws in Maine’s democracy: the absence of ranked-choice voting in state elections, and our unelected constitutional officers. In both cases, our state is falling short of its promise by depriving Mainers of their right to full and fair democracy.

The momentum behind ranked-choice voting in Maine came primarily from dissatisfaction over four consecutive gubernatorial elections (2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014) where the winner got less than a majority of the vote. Two of these elections were won by Democrat John Baldacci, and two were won by Republican Paul LePage, making plurality gubernatorial winners a bipartisan problem. Despite that, because of an outdated quirk in Maine’s constitution, general elections for county and state office cannot use ranked-choice voting. Because of this historical anachronism, we continue to use the old voting system, which has twice been rejected by Maine voters, and it is only a matter of time before Maine once again elects a governor without a majority mandate.

Because Maine has long allowed state legislators to pick the state’s constitutional officers, many Mainers may not realize how unusual and undemocratic our system is. Thirty-four states allow the people to elect their secretary of state, 37 states allow the people to elect their treasurer and 45 states allow the people to elect their attorney general. Furthermore, in most states that do not use popular elections, the positions are gubernatorial appointments; our system of letting state legislators decide is extremely rare. The reason most states elect these offices is obvious: They are important jobs tasked with making critical decisions; the voting public deserves to decide who should hold them.

Fixing these two problems will require amending the state Constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature.

Currently, Republicans are blocking the expansion of ranked-choice voting, while Democrats are blocking popular elections for secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer. The reasoning behind each is simple political benefit – Republicans think ranked-choice voting will hurt them, while Democrats believe that allowing Mainers to pick their own constitutional officers means voters might pick someone legislative Democrats don’t like. In each case, the partisan position is tactically understandable but morally indefensible.

Fortunately, democratic reform won’t have to wait for the parties to see the light of principle. Instead, Democrats and Republicans can come together to improve Maine’s democracy by making a trade: the two reforms should be packaged together into one constitutional amendment.

Republicans may not like ranked-choice voting, but they’ll vote for it in order to get popular elections for constitutional offices, while Democrats may not like popular elections for constitutional offices, but they’ll vote for it in order to get ranked-choice voting. At the end of the day, each party wins on one issue and loses on one issue, but Maine’s democracy comes out ahead on both.

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