About-To-Be-Misallocated Maine Election Is A Warning for Massachusetts

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/11/12/about-to-be-misallocated-maine-election-is-a-warning-for-massachusetts/

Two-term U.S. Representative Bruce Poliquin, the only Republican member of Congress in New England, got about 2,000 more votes than his nearest competitor, a Democrat, on election day last week.

So he won re-election, right?

Actually, probably not.

Maine two years ago adopted a ranked-choice voting system that asks voters to pick not only the candidate they want to win, but also their second choice. (And third choice, and fourth choice …)

It’s used as a sort of tie-breaker, if no candidate gets an outright majority of votes cast. Except that it’s not really a tie-breaker, since the top two candidates aren’t tied – one of them got more votes than the other, but could still lose. So really, it’s an election flipper.

That’s because in Poliquin’s race two independent candidates who got tiny fractions of the vote will determine the outcome. Or rather, their supporters will, from a kind of immediate second-chance voting.

Skip over this next dizzying paragraph if you don’t care about the arcane details:

Maine election officials are currently looking over each of the ballots that picked the fourth-place finisher (who got 2.4 percent of the vote) and checking to see which candidate that voter picked second, and awarding that vote to that second-choice candidate (after eliminating the fourth-place finisher from further consideration). When they finish, none of the remaining candidates will have a majority, so they’ll look at each ballot that picked the third-place finisher (who got 5.8 percent of the vote) and award that voter’s second-choice candidate with the vote (after eliminating the third-place finisher from further consideration). (It could actually be that third-place candidate’s voter’s third choice, if the voter’s second-choice candidate has already been eliminated. Got that?)

When Maine election officials are done, one of the two top votegetters will be declared to have a majority of the “votes” and therefore be declared the winner.

That person will almost certainly be the Democrat, Jared Golden.


People who vote for independent candidates typically would prefer the non-incumbent to win. So the non-incumbent, Golden, will likely get most of the second-choice and third-choice picks from the small fraction of voters who voted for the independent candidates. So he’ll be declared the winner in an election where he got fewer first-place votes than Bruce Poliquin, and he’ll take Poliquin’s seats after getting fewer first-place votes (read: real votes) than Poliquin did in Maine’s Second Congressional District.

This is kooky.

To be sure, Maine has a right to determine who wins elections and how. But this is a terrible way to do it.

When you hear certain left-wing activists pushing ranked-choice in Massachusetts, this is what it means.

As absurd as this system is, its one useful feature is that it tells us something about its supporters:

It’s a good solution for people who don’t want to live with the consequences of their choices.