The future of Democracy in America or an unconstitutional experiment?

U.S. Capitol Building view from below Capitol Hill (photo: Kevin McCoy)

Election 2018: Week One

Including one case in particular, an experiment the State of Maine voted for 2 years ago in the 2016 election: Ranked-Choice Voting. What is it and what does it mean for the future of voting in America?

Update: Disputed Races & Recounts

  • A U.S. Senate race remains undecided in Mississippi: Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith is facing a runoff against Democrat Mike Espy later in November.
  • Recounts are currently well underway in Florida, where three races are still ongoing: Florida Governorship, a U.S. Senate Seat and Florida Agriculture Commissioner. For Governor, Republican DeSantis is maintaining his Election Day win, leading Democratic Gillum 4,075,879 votes to 4,042,195 votes. In the Senate race, Republican Rick Scott is maintaining his Election Day win, leading Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson 4,098,107 votes to 4,085,545 votes. In the race for Florida Agriculture Commissioner: Republican Matt Caldwell trails Democrat Nikki Fried by a very slim margin.
  • The race for Georgia Governor is still underway. Republican Brian Kemp leads Democrat Stacey Abrams 1,977,502 votes to 1,921,680 votes.
  • 10 key races for the House of Representatives are still ongoing: Four have flipped since Election Day as Democrats have taken the lead, bringing the likely Democrat tally to 7 seats gained out of 10.

Ranked-Choice Runoff

Unlike the contenders in other states, Poliquin and Golden face a ranked-choice runoff that has one candidate bringing legal action already.

In 2016, Maine became ground zero for an electoral-reform idea that has the potential to transform Democracy and voting as we know it. In November, 2016, the citizens of Maine voted to replace the state’s ‘first past the post’ election system of the last 136 years with one that allowed preferential voting, also called Ranked-Choice Voting. When it passed, Maine became the first state in the U.S. to adopt this radical electoral reform.

While it has some benefits, the constitutionality of such a measure is certainly in question. Called in 2016 ‘blatantly unconstitutional’ by some, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, Democrat, issued an opinion that concluded that while implementing Ranked-Choice Voting might be possible without amending the Maine Constitution, several conflicts do exist.

How will the courts find? This column will watch this unique situation as it unfolds to find out.

What is Ranked-Choice Voting?

“If your first choice wasn’t available, who would be your second choice?”

When the ballots are tallied, first-choice votes are given to their candidates. If there is no clear majority winner, as in an electorate as evenly divided as the U.S., the candidate selected by the most people as their least favorite is first eliminated. Votes for the eliminated candidate are redistributed up the line according the the voters preference, giving them their second choice when their first choice becomes unavailable.

This process of elimination of least favored candidates, and reallocations of their votes continues until a clear winner emerges.

Could RCV Have Saved Hillary Clinton?

Some typically Democratic voters just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton. They undoubtedly had their reasons; some thought she was complicit in her husband’s abysmal track record with women, some felt she’d stolen the Democratic nomination from people’s candidate, Bernie Sanders. Others felt she was too much of a Washington insider, not what the country, or the party, needed.

So they voted for Jill Stein. Stein wasn’t expected to win; this was a protest vote, a refusal to vote simply against someone else, not for anything.

Under a Ranked-Choice Voting system, Jill Stein voters would have likely rated Hillary Clinton as their second choice and, just going out on a limb here, Donald Trump dead last.

But would they have even gotten the chance?

Ranked-Choice Voting Pros

“It allows voters to vote for their favorite candidate without fear of helping elect their least favorite candidate. It minimizes strategic voting and eliminates the spoiler effect.” -Maine League of Women Voters

Good for Third-Party Candidates

More Accurate Reflection of Voter Views

May Help Limit Negative Campaigns

“I’ve looked at the places that have it and I’m convinced it really limits negative advertising because you are appealing to voters who will agree with you but you don’t want to aggravate the other people because you want them to pick you second. To me, that is one of the biggest benefits.” -George Smith, prominent Maine Republican, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and one of the original signers of the Ranked-Choice Voting ballot measure in 2016

Outlandishly negative attack ads seem to have been everywhere this election season. Hyperbole may even be literally killing this country. Political rivals claim their opponents are trying to ‘burn the country down’, ‘destroy democracy’, the word ‘Nazi’ gets thrown around far too easily and often. You don’t just disagree with someone anymore; now, they’re pure inhuman evil. It might be getting a bit out of hand. After all, the mentally-ill are listening.

Considering a troubling new trend on the political horizon, reigning in the exaggerations, the Dynasty-level drama, the journalists who will starve when the President Trump circus tent eventually folds and we all have to go back to watching CSPAN, might be in our immediate best interest.

Next in this series,

Corporate Virtue Signaling: What it means, why it matters

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