AUGUSTA -- In a few days, Mainers will go to the polls and have the opportunity to right a wrong. In addition to voting for candidates, we will once again be asked to weigh in on ranked-choice voting.
I am asking you to vote "no" to prevent further chaos in Maine's election system.
There are a number of reasons I am urging you to vote "no," but the most important is that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has ruled large portions of it unconstitutional.
Because of these constitutional issues, the ill-advised use of this convoluted voting scheme in the June primary will surely lead to lawsuits, confusion and chaos. A major Maine news organization has already warned readers that it could be weeks before we know who the winners of the primary are. That means we likely will not know who candidates for governor are for weeks because of the ranked-choice voting system that will be used on the June ballot, a system that has been forced upon us by people who apparently have no regard for the law or the integrity of our election system.
Think about that for a moment. In this day and age, when information is instantly available at our fingertips, our election system will be going back to the days of the horse and buggy, making Maine citizens wait for weeks, or maybe even months before they know who their candidates are.
The path that led us here is long and confusing, but it's important for voters to know the basics.
In November 2016, Maine voters, by a narrow margin, approved rank-choice voting. Proponents put the measure on the ballot, although Maine's attorney general and many others expressed concerns about the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting before the vote occurred.
Shortly after that, Maine's supreme court issued an opinion confirming that ranked-choice voting conflicts with the Maine Constitution, which clearly states that a candidate needs a plurality to win an election, not a majority.
The Legislature then, responsibly, passed a bill that delayed the implementation of ranked-choice voting until 2021, giving supporters of the system plenty of time to secure a constitutional amendment to change our voting system.
Inexplicably, ranked-choice voting supporters persisted. They initiated a people's veto to require ranked-choice voting to be used in Maine's upcoming primary and successfully gathered enough signatures to put the question on the ballot.
Confused? You are not alone. The frustrating part of all of this is it does not have to be confusing. But ranked-choice voting backers, who are bankrolled by out-of-state interests who want to use Maine as a guinea pig for their convoluted voting system, decided to put the voters of Maine in the middle of this mess.
That brings us to this month's vote. In addition to choosing candidates for office, voters will also be asked whether they want to use ranked-choice voting going forward, in primary and federal elections, which the Maine Constitution does not specifically address. This would mean that voters would be required to use two different voting systems when they go into the booth. Trying to weed through which candidates and ballot questions to support is taxing enough. Now we want to make it more perplexing?
There are other conflicts that will also likely lead to lawsuits. Under ranked-choice voting, votes from around the state will be brought to a central location to be entered into the ranked-choice voting formula, yet the state constitution requires votes to be counted at the polling places where the voting occurs.
The Secretary of State's Office has contracted with a courier from the private sector to transport the ballots from around the entire state to the central location following the vote. In addition to prolonging the outcome of the election, this exposes the state to chain of custody questions for the ballots.
Then there is the question of recounts, which occur nearly every election cycle. If a candidate requests a recount, how will that affect the ranked-choice voting formula? I still have not gotten a clear answer on this.
In short, this is a mess, and it is completely unnecessary. The issue here is not whether you think ranked-choice voting is a good idea or a bad idea. It is about protecting the integrity of Maine's voting system. If ranked-choice voting advocates believe their voting system is such a great idea, surely they will have enough support to get it right and secure an amendment to change the Maine Constitution. As of right now, they are attempting to force a square peg through a round hole, and we are all paying the price.
The good news is there is something we can all do about it. We can go to the polls June 12 and vote "no" on Question 1. Let's stop the chaos and restore order in our election system.
This op-ed first appeared in today's Portland Press Herald.