WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Foundation for Independent Voter Education and the Chamberlain Project Foundation won first place in the political category at the 2018 American Civic Collaboration Awards for providing news and information to Maine voters about its landmark ranked choice voting election reform.
Put simply, the education campaigns helped cover Maine’s second-largest referendum vote by the people in state history – the 2016 initiative to institute ranked choice voting.
Nearly a year after it was enacted into law, the Maine legislature passed a bill that delayed its implementation and set it up for repeal.
However, Maine voters fought back. In February, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting submitted more than 80,000 signatures to put a people's veto on the primary ballot.
Not only that, ranked choice voting would be used for the first time in state, US House, and US Senate primary elections.
The "Yes on Question 1" campaign was in full swing, and key to its success in June -- where it passed by an overwhelming margin -- was the emphasis placed on demystifying the RCV process. Voters were inundated with misleading and often false information from mainstream media as well as opponents of RCV that painted the issue as a partisan issue.
“At the root of our partisan politics, and in turn, our political news, is an election process that incentivizes that kind of unproductive behavior,” said Dan Howle, a FIVE board member.
“The people of Maine had an opportunity to change the system, and they took it. “FIVE, through its online news site, IVN.us, was proud to provide accurate news and information for the people of Maine, without the partisan spin.”
Maine had used a closed primary system, meaning only registered members of a political party may vote in that party's primary. However, voters outside the parties could vote on the ranked choice voting question -- and it appears that tens of thousands did.
RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Simply put, last-place candidates are eliminated in automatic and instant rounds of runoff until the candidate with majority consensus wins.
The voting reform is in use for this year's midterm elections. In November, however, it will only be used in the races for US House and US Senate.
According to Civvys judge David Sawyer, ranked choice voting is “a game changer for the nation, breaking the polarization paradigm.” Two other judges called this work “an essential experiment” in the “laboratory of democracy.”