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Maine Voters Fight to Take Government Back from Both Parties

Liberal democracy is in crisis, but there are reasons for hope. That is the message coming from several voices in the reform community, including CA FWD’s Lenny Mendonca and Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University.

In a recent opinion piece, Diamond says that in order to fix democracy on the broader national and global scale, “we must first address toxic partisanship and polarization here at home.”

He writes:

“The United States and its liberal democratic allies must develop a new global strategy to counter the power projection of expansive autocracies, and to reboot an international campaign to promote democratic values and ideas. But we also need to renew the core of what we are fighting for: the worth of our own democracy.

The problems with our democracy—ever-deepening polarization, incivility, gridlock, dysfunction, conflicts of interest, and disregard for democratic norms—are not just problems of political culture and behavior. Politicians are driven by incentives, especially the desire to get re-elected. Institutions heavily shape these incentives, and our institutions are in need of reform. Unless we reform our democracy, we will be increasingly hard-pressed to improve the health of democracy globally.”

The list of reforms needed is vast, but Diamond says fixing the electoral system is the best place to start. He further believes ranked choice voting offers the most promising change, and believes Maine voters in particular are showing the rest of the country the way.

Diamond writes:

“There are antidotes to this damaging distortion of our electoral process. One is to make primaries open to independents and even voters of other parties. Another is to move primary elections closer to the general election, when voter interest is greater. These fixes might help at the margins to mitigate the current polarizing trends, though in the case of Arizona, primaries are already open to independents and occur relatively late in the summer.

The most promising change is ranked choice voting, sometimes called ‘the instant runoff.'”

He praises efforts by Maine citizens to improve their elections and reduce the toxic hyper-partisanship coming from both political parties.

First, Maine voters approved ranked choice voting in November 2016. Then, state lawmakers delayed and set the election reform up for repeal in October (despite broad calls for them not to).

Now, Mainers are mobilizing again to overturn the legislature’s blatant disrespect of their rights by putting a “people’s veto” on the June 2018 primary.

Unless we reform our democracy, we will be increasingly hard-pressed to improve the health of democracy globally.
Larry Diamond

Supporters have under 90 days to gather 61,000 signatures. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting (RCV Maine) says they are already over halfway to that goal — making serious gains in just a 24-hour period.

“The 128th Legislature tried to thwart the will of the people and throw out the results of a free and fair election,” said Cara Brown McCormick, the RCV Maine’s treasurer.

“Little did they know how strong and resilient and unified and energized and committed and organized Maine people can be. We will defend our Constitutional right to direct democracy and our right to choose the way we elect our leaders. It’s impossible to overstate how grateful we are to our Maine ancestors who had the foresight to give us the People’s Veto 100 years ago.”

“The battle is on. If reform advocates in Maine can gather the necessary signatures within the brisk 90-day time limit…then ranked choice voting will be used in the June 2018 party primaries,” writes Diamond. “If the voters then approve the veto that June, ranked choice voting will be used for Maine’s U.S. House and Senate elections beginning in November, and for all subsequent party primaries.”

He adds,”Rarely in recent American history has a political struggle so clearly exposed the gulf between a two-party duopoly that does not want more electoral choice and a public that craves it.”

Read Larry Diamond’s full opinion piece on The American Interest here.

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