Ongoing presidential campaign drama obscures other election issues important to our democracy. One issue up for a vote in November is referendum Question 5, which would return majority rule to the election of Maine’s governor, state and federal legislators.

Referendum Question 5, An Act to Establish Ranked-choice Voting, addresses a current weakness in those election contests. When more than two candidates run for a single office, winning is possible without a majority (more than 50 percent) of votes. In fact, in nine out of 11 Maine gubernatorial elections, every race since 1974, the winner (4 Republican, 3 Democrat and 2 Independent) received less than 50 percent of the votes cast.

Referendum Question 5 would change the Maine ballot so that when there are more than two candidates running for those offices, instead of marking their ballots for a single candidate, voters could rank the candidates according to their preferences. The ballots would then be tabulated in successive rounds of counting, eliminating the candidate with the fewest votes at the end of each round until one of the remaining two candidates has a majority. Think of it as an “instant” run-off that avoids the cost of another election.

The current fractious politics makes multiple-candidate races more likely. It is timely, then, to ensure that the candidate taking office is chosen by a majority of voters. Ranked-choice voting would return majority rule to those elections. Majority rule both strengthens the mandate of the elected official and enhances electoral fairness — fundamental strengths of our democracy.

Ralph Harder, Auburn

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