The media receives a briefing on ranked-choice voting ballot retabulation. Photo courtesy Maine Secretary of State.
If you were asked if you wanted to change the way your state votes so that the second, third, fourth and later choices of voters for the losing candidates in your elections could be used to create a new “fake majority” and overturn the results of your election day voting, would you support it?
What if you were told the new ranked-choice voting system would allow a small group of voters the ability to keep voting until one of their more preferred candidates won, while voters who voted for the leading candidate could only have their one vote counted?
How about if you were told that when this new system went into place, the ballots would not all be recounted in subsequent rounds, but memory sticks from voting machines would be loaded into software shielded from scrutiny and run through a proprietary algorithm the public is not allowed to see?
In Maine, it happened. Of course, it wasn’t explained to voters in such plain terms as I did above.
Mainers were promised “more choice and more voice” and “majority” election winners by a group of wealthy donors from other states in a slick and expensive advertising campaign.
The public was not fully aware that many thousands of votes would essentially be thrown out or “exhausted” in the process.
The public was not told that spoiled ballot numbers would go through the roof, that municipalities would need to acquire new, expensive voting machines, or that our machines were going to be subject to election day failures that would leave thousands of ballots unprocessed in boxes at polling places.
To say many voters have buyer’s remorse is an understatement. Our incumbent Congressman won the traditional Maine election by more than 1,500 votes, only to see that lead wiped out in the ranked-choice voting algorithm more than a week later when 15,000 votes of the third and fourth place candidates were “retabulated” and gave the second place candidate a plurality of the votes.
Rather than “more voice”, many voters in Maine’s Second Congressional District feel completely without a voice. The district itself voted against the new system twice and now faces the loss of a Congressman they elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2016 by healthy margins.
To add insult to injury, the third place candidate, a lawyer from Portland, the largest city in Maine’s other Congressional district, has openly stated on social media that her candidacy was simply a test run to see how to use the ranked-choice voting system to the advantage of our Congressman’s opponent.
Now the election results are in federal court. We have a new, expensive and complicated system that was sold to voters as something it is not.
We have a secret algorithm retabulating our ballots and defenders of ranked-choice voting have even said publicly since the election that voters ‘don’t need to know’ how exhausted ballots even work.
Our local, trusted election clerks no longer simply announce our results. Instead, a centralized bureaucracy elected by the political party in control of our state legislature controls the process.
The nation of Iraq, coming out of a terrible war, knew the results of their national elections this past spring in half the time that Maine’s Second Congressional District knew our results this fall.
Yet we still don’t have a winner that won a majority of the votes, which was the core promise of this new system. Many of our municipal results show less than half of voters even partially used the ranked-choice system. In some municipalities, less than 15% bothered to even use the system.
Many voters feel like they have less voice and some feel like the system is designed to suppress their vote.
Ranked-choice voting is a complicated and expensive scam.
Take our word for it here in Maine. Stick to what works and don’t buy what the wealthy RCV donors are selling.
Jason Savage is the executive director of the Maine Republican Party.