AUGUSTA – The day before the Iowa Democratic Presidential Caucus descended into chaos, embarrassing the DNC in a debacle that has yet to be sorted out ten days later, a pro-ranked choice voting group in Maine was touting the Iowa RCV process.
On Facebook, The
Committee For Ranked Choice Voting, a group that pushed RCV into effect in
Maine with promises that have largely been disproven, touted Iowa’s process as
an example of how RCV empowers voters and increases participation.
“In tomorrow’s Iowa Democratic Party Caucus voters whose 1st choices are eliminated will have their votes counted for their 2nd choices. #RCV works similarly to give #MoreChoice to voters, except that it does so with a paper ballot that takes just minutes to complete. That’s how RCV empowers voters with #MoreVoice and maximizes voter participation,” said the group in a Facebook post.
The night of the Iowa
caucus, however, the idea of the process being empowering or increasing
participation evaporated quickly along with the patience of pundits, caucus
participants and Democratic candidates for President.
For hours, the
nation waited for results, only to learn that something had gone wrong with the
process for caucus precincts to report results. That process, made more
complicated than previous Iowa Presidential caucuses because of new requirements
related to the multiple sets of results being reported, ultimately led to a
failure of Iowa officials to be able to publish results, or say with any
certainty who had won.
The process was
an embarrassing episode for the Democratic National Committee, who had bragged
about the new process in advance as they sought to kick off their attempt to
defeat President Donald Trump. From all corners of the political world, criticism
official was live on CNN while waiting on hold to call the Iowa Democratic
Party to report their result when they were abruptly hung up on. At another
point, reports indicated that Iowa Democratic Party officials hung up on a
conference call with the Presidential campaigns when tough questions began to
Ten days after
the Iowa caucus, nobody knows for sure who won. The Iowa Democratic Party Chair
has resigned, and two candidates, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, have
called for the results to be recanvassed. The fallout of the caucus serves as what
many say is clear evidence that voters were not more empowered or given “more
voice” as Maine’s RCV group predicted.
The other major
claim from Maine’s Committee for Ranked Choice Voting made, saying that it
would maximize voter participation, also appears to be completely disproven
from Iowa. According to multiple sources, 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus turnout
was essentially flat when compared to 2016 turnout and
down by tens of thousands of voters from 2008.
In Maine, ranked
choice voting has been criticized for failing to deliver on the promises made
by supporters. A study from the Maine Heritage Policy Center lays out details
on those broken promises, including that the system does not produce true “majority”
winners in elections and that the system itself suppresses voter participation instead
of increasing it.
Still, the facts,
studies, Maine’s experience and even the national debacle of the Iowa Caucus doesn’t
seem to deter supporters of RCV. The group has sprung back to life since a people’s
veto to repeal the most recent iteration of RCV, this time in Maine’s
Presidential elections, was announced.
That bill was pushed
forward by Senate President Troy Jackson, who was previously a Bernie Sanders supporter,
in a late summer legislative session in 2019. It was not signed into law by
Gov. Janet Mills due to concerns about it being used in the Democratic Primary
in March of 2020. Mills cited the internal rules of the major political parties
in allocating delegates and uncertainty about how RCV would be applied.
Ironically, Bernie Sanders declared victory in the Iowa caucus despite another candidate, Pete Buttigieg declaring himself the delegate winner under the RCV process. Sanders said in a press conference that he won because he got the most votes, and that when more people come out to vote for you than your opponents, “we here in northern New England call that a victory.”
Because Mills did not sign the bill into law, to prevent it from being used in the primary but allowing it to go into effect for the general election, she opened a large window for signature gathering to launch a people’s veto to repeal the law. That signature gathering process has now begun.
If the signature gathering is successful, instead of ranked choice voting being used in the 2020 general election between President Donald Trump, a Democrat candidate and several other likely candidates, voters will instead be asked if they wish to repeal the ranked choice voting law.