It’s an outrage that a small group of devious political insiders has been allowed to manipulate the democratic process in a blatant attempt to restrict voting rights. Fair-minded people of all ideological persuasions should be banding together before it’s too late to thwart this unconscionable plot to undermine the electoral process.

Huh? No, I’m not referring to the Republican Party’s clumsy efforts to ban voter registration on Election Day, a move the Democrats are clumsily trying to overturn with a People’s Veto vote in November.

I can’t imagine why you’d think that.

The voter-suppression campaign I’m referring to is one that seems to be favored by lots of Democrats, Greens and other liberals, at least the ones who live in Portland (motto: A Republican? I Think We Used To Have A Republican. Hey, Does Anybody Remember Where We Put The Token Republican?)

This plan was originally called Let’s Create A Ballot So Complicated That Only Elite Types With Advanced Degrees From The Finest Universities Will Be Able To Successfully Fill It Out, Thereby Disenfranchising High School Graduates, Community College Losers And Anyone Who Works For A Living And Doesn’t Have The Time Or Money To Take An Eight-Hour Course Explaining The Process.

As names go, that one was deemed a bit too lengthy, not to mention demeaning to voters with the sort of practical knowledge that might allow them to follow ridiculously complex directions, even without a Ph.D. You know, idiot savants and those annoying people who can make all the features on their smart phones work.

The result was a re-branding of the plan. It’s now called “ranked choice voting” or, for short, just “rank.” It’ll be used this fall to choose the new mayor of Portland.

When I say “used,” I mean, of course, only by the refined folks who understand it, which is to say those citizens who’ve always felt that they, by virtue of their superior intelligence and social standing, should be in charge of the city. Fortunately for them, they’ve finally installed a system that virtually assures that.

To understand how they pulled that off, you’d have to have a solid grasp of how ranked choice works. Since that’s close to impossible for people dumb enough to be reading this column instead of enriching their intellects with the New York Times or National Public Radio, you’ll just have to take what I say on faith. Which is:

Ranked choice voting is going to deny a lot of people in Portland their right to decide who gets the mayor’s job.

If you don’t believe me, check out the sample ballot — it’s at portlandmaine.gov/voter/11082011ballot.pdf, but you’ll have to scroll way down to find it. It looks like something designed by a rogue Internal Revenue Service agent intent on compelling all taxpayers to throw up their hands and scream, “Take all my money. Just take it and leave me to starve in peace, with the last shreds of my sanity intact.”

This cleverly constructed form has 15 candidates listed, each with 15 options allowing voters to rank them from their first choice to their last by filling in the proper circle. That amounts to a mere 225 potential choices. But be careful. If you accidentally mark two different mayoral wannabes as your second choice, that invalidates most of your ballot. If you rank a candidate more than once, only the highest score counts. If you skip a rating, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. If you rank Charles Bragdon anywhere in the top 10, you’ll be committed to an asylum.

“This system is simple,” mayoral candidate Jed Rathband said on a campaign video.

Maybe to him, being all educated and everything. But keep in mind that in conventional elections where you just have to place an “X” or fill in an arrow next to the name you support, there are always a few people who can’t get it right. As anyone who has ever examined ballots will tell you, there are going to be a voters who feel compelled to put the “X” midway between two names, who put it next to every name, who fill in only the arrow next to the blank line for write-ins, who give up on the whole thing and turn in blank ballots so they can go do something easier. Like their taxes.

And that doesn’t take into account citizens who get confused enough that they manage to cast a valid ballot for the wrong candidate. There’s no way to measure those numbers, but if you want proof it happens frequently, check out who gets elected to the Legislature.

Ranked choice voting further disenfranchises the dim-witted and easily confused. It places significant barriers in the way of the moderately intelligent and the mathematically challenged. It even makes it tricky for the high-IQ and high-income types (“I’ll have my accountant do my voting for me”) to be certain they’ve got it right.

It’s a lot more insidious than the GOP’s plot to keep the hoi-polloi from registering to vote on Election Day.

Also, a lot more effective.

Register your objections (ranking them in numerical order) by emailing aldiamon@herniahill.net.