On Nov. 8, voters will be making laws without public hearings, without reading the fine print, without legal analysis, without legislative review and, of particular concern, at least one of the bills is blatantly unconstitutional.

Attorney General Janet Mills has provided a six-page legal opinion regarding the ranked choice voting proposal. Concerns include:  determining the winner by plurality versus majority; tabulation of ballots locally versus transporting ballots to a central location with armed escorts; and tie breaking by vote of the Legislature versus tie breaking by lot (flip of a coin).

Legislators take an oath to abide by both the U.S. Constitution and the Maine Constitution. This is an oath I take seriously. We should not ignore laws that do not suit the whim of the day.

Question 5 reads: Do you want to allow voters to rank their choices of candidates in elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative, and to have ballots counted at the state level in multiple rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins by majority?

Funny, the word “majority” does not appear in the fine print of the bill.

The Maine Constitution was amended in 1880 as the result of an armed conflict and a three-way race for governor that did not result in majority. One word was changed; “plurality” replaced the word “majority.” These words are not interchangeable. Plurality voting is easy and clear to understand — the person with the most votes wins.

While proponents talk a lot about RCV guaranteeing a majority, and the word is in the text of the ballot question, it only guarantees a majority of the left over ballots in the final round. That’s because instant run-off voting may involve multiple rounds that result in thrown away, exhausted ballots. Ballots that have no future use are discarded and deducted from the total vote count, thus becoming exhausted and redefining the majority.

Many votes may be discarded. In San Francisco, a race for District 10, resulted in 18,503 voters casting ballots using RCV, but the winner, after 19 recounts, received only 4,321 votes. That meant thousands of ballots were exhausted and only 25 percent of the voters approved of the winner.

In Portland’s first race implementing RCV, Michael Brennan was declared the winner after 14 rounds, with 45.9 percent of all voters who cast ballots. One headline read, “Doesn’t add up.”

Legislators often examine other states that have implemented or experimented with new ideas. With years of first-hand experience, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed RCV in California last month. He said it was “overly complicated and confusing.” I agree.

Oh, and by the way, it is also blatantly unconstitutional.

Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, represents House District 28, part of Scarborough. She serves on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and can be reached at [email protected]


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