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Wednesday, 20 March 2019 16:30

Lawmakers consider using ranked choice for presidential elections Featured

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AUGUSTA - The 2020 presidential election might look a little different in Maine than in years past.


Senate President Troy Jackson, D - Allagash, has proposed a bill to use ranked choice voting for picking the U.S. president.


At a public hearing Wednesday he said this sets up a clearer system, now that Maine is using ranked choice for congressional and gubernatorial races.


"When you have a ballot that has two different systems on it, there's no way that people wouldn't get confused in that system," said Sen. Jackson. "It broadens participation and gives people a feeling like their vote matters."


Those for the bill said it allows voters to cast a ballot for a candidate they like, rather than choosing the lesser of two evils.


In ranked choice, a candidate needs more than 50 percent to win. Until that point, rounds are held, counting the voter's second choice and so on.


Mainers have voted to use ranked choice twice in a referendum, but Republicans against it said they don't see that support in their districts.


"I've always been a fan of one person, one vote," said Rep. Scott Strom, R - Pittsfield. "The voters in my side of the state really felt like this was pushed on them by another side, and it was our congressman that was affected by it."


That election made national headlines, when Bruce Poliquin got the most votes in the first round, but not more than 50 percent. When the second choice votes were tabulated, Jared Golden came out the overall winner.


"When I hear some of the debates and they say 'it's much more civil', well I watched the last debate with Poliquin and Golden, it wasn't civil," said Sen. Scott Cyrway, R - Albion.


Currently, Maine uses a caucus system to select presidential nominees. The bill also paves the way to use ranked choice if Maine were to implement presidential primaries, an idea that has come up in the state legislature previously.


"This ability to make a freer choice also allows a greater number and variety of candidates to run for office," said Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D - Ellsworth, a cosponsor on the bill.


As for the people who will be overseeing whatever the legislature decides to do, Maine's Secretary of State said he is neutral on the bill.


It would take us a bit of time as has been shown," said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. "There would be some additional expense in doing that as well. It's all very doable."


Lawmakers said if this bill moves forward, Maine would be the first state to implement ranked choice voting in presidential elections.

Kelly Mitchell

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Kelly Mitchell joined the news team in March of 2018. She grew up splitting her time between York, ME and Haverhill, MA, but her favorite childhood memories took place along the rocky coast of southern Maine. She's now e...