Let's hear it for passionate moderation

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jun 22, 2018

Somewhat to my surprise, Maine voted to keep the ranked-choice voting system at the polls June 12. I know some opponents of Question 1 have said out-of-state interests bankrolled the measure and bamboozled our residents into supporting it, but I have a higher opinion of Mainers' intelligence than that.

I don't think people were coerced -- or fooled -- into voting to keep a system they all got to experience in the primary. I think they understand that ranked-choice favors moderates over extremists of all stripes, and allows citizens to vote their principles and their bottom-line concerns as well. Vilified by some conservatives as a scheme promoted by the radical left (as if Maine were a hotbed of such radicals!), ranked-choice, by its tendency to advance the candidates with the broadest appeal, actually favors those nearer the center -- the place most people would end up in a compromise.

The Democratic primary for governor is a case in point. While there were several candidates running to her left, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills was the front-runner when this column was written, and her nearest challenger was another moderate, Adam Cote. It seems likely at this point that one of them will be the Democratic candidate facing Republican businessman Shawn Moody in November.

So no, ranked-choice won't be a path to radical reform; it probably won't elect the dream candidates of either left or right, though voters will be free to rank such candidates first if they wish. But it will be a path to greater compromise, to seeking common ground, to finding leaders we all can live with, instead of those who seek to appeal to just enough of the electorate to gain office, and, oftentimes, feel beholden only to those who make large donations.

I can understand why many on the right don't like such a system: their tactic for years has been to appeal to fear and resentment and to offer scorched-earth policies such as those of the present administration in Washington, D.C. In their minds, moderation is capitulation; compromise is anathema; common ground is cowardice. But when ranked-choice has been the law in Maine for a while, they, too, being pragmatists at heart, will see the value in reaching out to the broad middle, instead of relying on the fringe of their party alone for support.

I'm glad Maine decided to continue what is admittedly an experiment with ranked-choice voting. I think it holds the best promise for electing candidates with a broad vision, a desire to serve all the people and a willingness to work with others who have different points of view to craft solutions to our problems that benefit the many, rather than the few.

Yes, it will take some time to find the best way to implement it, and we will have to change the state Constitution to use it in elections for state offices. And no, it will not produce a utopia -- that does not exist, and won't, as long as Earth is peopled with flawed human beings.

But I do believe it will help reduce political polarization and lead to fairer elections with results more truly representative of the people's will. If it does, all Mainers can, and should, be proud.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jun 27, 2018 15:43

The people of Maine have approved ranked choice voting three times.  What part of "democracy" do you not get?



Posted by: Sherwood E Young | Jun 27, 2018 08:26

Ranked-choice voting has been ruled unconstitutional in Maine.  What part of that fact do you not get?



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