Democracy requires fair voting processes and clear rules. It’s healthy and necessary to debate the best system for conducting elections, but it is unfair to change the rules once the outcome is known. For that reason, Bruce Poliquin’s recent lawsuit against ranked choice voting was misguided, and his efforts to change the result of Maine’s Second Congressional District’s election perilous for our democratic process.

Voting for the first time in November, I ranked independent Tiffany Bond first and Congressman-elect Jared Golden second. I liked that Bond had a keen focus on discussing the issues. In statements and tweets, she articulated what many people see: that politics is becoming like reality TV, where debates are used for personal insults, and big donors spend millions in districts, like CD 2, that are in deep need of aid for education, the opioid crisis, and other poignant issues. In fact, Bond rejected all campaign contributions, from PACs and individuals alike, asking instead that supporters buy from small Maine businesses. Her unrealistic chances of winning didn’t detract from her noble ideas.

And that is the beauty of ranked choice voting. I was able to show support for a candidate whose transformative ideas I believed would create a better form of politics, while still casting a vote for the candidate who I thought could win the race.

Knowing that Bond was polling in single digits, I was confident that, once she was eliminated, my vote would go to Golden to help push him over the top. Had ranked choice voting not been in place, I would have voted for Golden to avoid the “spoiler effect” of choosing a candidate who had virtually no chance to win. In this sense, it’s a stretch to say that Poliquin would have won in a plurality election. I am sure thousands of Bond and William Hoar voters, like myself, would have voted for Golden in that system.

Poliquin’s efforts to change the results of the election would have disenfranchised me and thousands of fellow Mainers like me who voted for Bond or Hoar. Not only was Poliquin trying to change the rules after the game ends, but he was trying to change a good rule that was agreed upon by all four candidates and affirmed twice by the citizens of Maine.

I am thrilled that Judge Walker ruled in favor of ranked choice voting and am confident that if Poliquin appeals the decision it will be upheld in higher courts.

In this election, more than any midterm in recent history, energized voters from both sides of the aisle sent participation skyrocketing. Young people like me were particularly engaged. The national voting rate among 18- to 29-year-olds increased from 18 percent to 29 percent, the highest percentage in a midterm for more than three decades for this age group. More than voting, we worked on campaigns, talked to our friends, and collectively played a bigger role than usual in deciding our own future.

Our national focus now needs to be toward retaining this energy, not finding ways to suppress and discount votes. Young voters in Maine, like me, need to know that our elected officials are doing everything in their power to make sure our votes count. As our congressman, Poliquin should be among them.

Poliquin’s recent statements about ranked choice voting have been misleading and have only served to widen the partisan divide on what should be a nonpartisan issue. His recent claim that the system should be void because CD2 did not vote for it is clearly irrelevant. Just because Maine didn’t vote for Donald Trump doesn’t mean we can claim he’s not the president. Poliquin’s comments merely aimed to create confusion and increase support for his lawsuit.

My friends, young people, and students across Maine and the country are excited to vote, to participate in democracy and to do what we can to create a more perfect union and a society we all want to live in.

People are excited to discuss ranked choice voting and to learn how it went in Maine. Many are inspired and optimistic that it may spread nationally. The Democratic group at my college used ranked choice voting for our internal elections because we believe it’s the best system; and Connecticut and Massachusetts voters have already begun to discuss bringing ranked choice voting to their own states. And, of course, as Maine goes, so goes the nation.

After four years of Poliquin’s service in Congress, more than half of CD2 voters fairly chose Golden. It is time for Poliquin to respectfully concede before he further tarnishes his legacy and damages the democratic process. Young people, proponents of ranked choice voting, Maine citizens, and all people invested in legal and fair elections are depending on it.

Emmett Shell is a freshman at Yale University. He is a resident of Montville.

Emmett Shell


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