With the mid-term elections over it’s time to examine the benefits and/or deficits of ranked-choice voting. Maine had the dubious distinction of being the first state to decide a contest for the U.S. House of Representatives by ranked-choice voting.

Maine adopted ranked-choice voting through means of a referendum question. The wording was confusing and without a doubt, many voters checked the “yes” box by virtue of being misinformed. And those who understood, or thought they understood, what ranked-choice voting entails and still cast a yes vote, are now suffering buyer’s remorse.

What’s worse, the incoming administration in Augusta has indicated that it may make ranked-choice a universal method, used for all contests, not just federal ones.

But back to the recent election. Because of ranked-choice voting, Bruce Poliquin, the Republican candidate for Congress, lost the election to Democrat Jared Golden. But Poliquin gathered more votes than Golden and yet lost the election. How is this possible?

Well, it is apparent that with ranked-choice voting anything is possible. It’s like modern math. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and no amount of logic can render it understandable. The difference between ranked-choice voting and modern math is that to my knowledge, modern math has never harmed anyone nor has it disenfranchised any voters. Ranked-choice voting has done both.

First choice

Up until now, a registered voter could cast a vote for the candidate of their choice. There were no second, third or fourth choices. You marked one box and your vote was cast. Thus, while independent candidates, when on the ballot, drew votes from either the Republican or Democrat candidate, unless a third-party candidate won a plurality, the Republican or Democrat candidate won the contest by virtue of gaining more votes than his or her opponent. This method is easily understandable and totally fair. The candidate with the most votes wins. Period.

Enter ranked-choice voting.

Big lie

The big lie in ranked-choice voting is in supposing that voters entertain varying degrees of support for all candidates on the ballot. Thus, while a voter may choose candidate “A” as their first choice, they then are requested to vote for candidates “B” and “C.” This ranks as the epitome of presumptuousness. People don’t visit polling places to vote for second, third or fourth-choice candidates. They go to vote for their preferred candidate.

No one goes to the polls thinking that if their candidate of choice loses, at least their second or third-favorite candidate may have a chance. If that were so, nobody would bother to vote at all. And that, unfortunately, may be an unintended (or perhaps intended…who knows?) consequence of ranked-choice voting.

In the next election, a significant number of registered voters may decide to sit home rather than going out to vote because they are now convinced, thanks to ranked-choice voting, that their vote doesn’t count. And for the first time in history, that may be true. With ranked-choice voting, it appears that our votes really don’t count. Just ask those who voted for Bruce Poliquin. Our founders would cringe were they aware of the chaos and ruin that has befallen our election system.

My beef regarding ranked-choice voting, as outlined above, holds true no matter who wins. Were a Republican to gain a seat, after earning fewer votes than his or her opponent, because ranked-choice voting gave him or her the victory, that would be wrong.

It is beyond my ken why a system that has proved efficient for over 200 years should suddenly need fixing. It wasn’t broken, certainly, so where was the need or indeed, the justification, to completely tip everything upside down and start from scratch? But now things are so bollixed up that it will take another referendum question to remove ranked-choice voting and return to the old, efficient and easily understood method of one candidate one vote.

Future fixes

So here we are in 2018 with a new way of voting, a way brought into being by special interest groups. If ranked-choice voting isn’t rescinded, our whole system of voting will plunge into the abyss and we will become nothing more than another banana republic.

The big worry here is that if special interests can effectively sabotage our way of voting, then what else might they accomplish? After all, they have begun at the top and are now working their way down. It is possible that the Electoral College may be the next American institution to go under the axe. Where will it stop?

If nothing else, this is going to be a wild ride.

Tom Seymour is a freelance magazine and newspaper writer, book author, naturalist and forager. He lives in Waldo.