There is no question that what is happening in Maine with ranked choice voting is historic.
For the first time in US history, a statewide ballot will use ranked choice voting for governor, state legislature, US House, and US Senate.
For the second time in Maine history, voters successfully pushed a people’s veto against the actions of the state legislature after politicians delayed the voter-approved ranked choice voting law and set it up for repeal.
The significance of this has not gone unnoticed, not even by Maine’s largest news outlets.
The Portland Press Herald, Maine’s most popular newspaper, for example wrote back in February that if the extraordinary efforts by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, and their volunteers in unforgiving winter cold were successful (and they were), they would accomplish three important things:
• “Voters would be able to reaffirm their support for the law that they passed and which the Legislature shot down.”
• “They would also get a chance to give the system a test drive, since the people’s veto puts the Legislature’s work on hold. At the same time they say “yes” or “no” on ranked-choice voting, they will also decide primaries with more than two candidates, like the 11-way Democratic gubernatorial contest, with ballots that let them rank their choices.”
• “And voters will be able to send a message about what they think of the much-maligned referendum process itself. Mainers unhappy with the way that Augusta has altered or outright dismissed a series of laws passed through citizen initiatives in recent years will have a chance to assert that they are also “lawmakers,” and under our constitution, have no less authority than elected officials to pass legislation.”
The Press Herald even understands the greater implications that extend beyond ranked choice voting:
“Voters have approved bond issues, school funding targets, minimum-wage standards and expansion of health care benefits, only to see Gov. LePage and a number of lawmakers treat these measures as suggestions, not laws. These questions are often blunt instruments that need to be refined in Augusta before they go into effect. But, as with ranked-choice voting, the elected officials act is if they were dealing with a bill submitted by a single representative, and not a law that was approved by a majority of voters.”
The paper’s editorial board adds, “A defeat for ranked-choice voting in June would be an endorsement of the dismissive attitude elected officials have shown for the people who elected them. A victory would send a signal to whomever is in the State House next year that the people are ultimately in charge.”
June’s primary election will already make history, but Maine voters will have yet another opportunity to make history again while sending a clear message to the people they elect to represent them.
Read the full Portland Press Herald editorial here.
Correction: The article originally stated this was the first time the people’s veto had been used. A 2011 repeal of election day registration was reversed by people’s veto in November of the same year. The article has been updated.