So long, spoilers. That’s the message two Yarmouth legislators hope to send with legislation aimed at eliminating the chances of electing statewide candidates with less than a majority vote. Freshman Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, and veteran legislator Sen. Dick Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, have submitted draft legislation for ranked-choice voting to the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee. “Today, there are more third-party and unenrolled candidates, and the current system doesn’t work well when there’s a broader range,” Woodbury said. “I think that it tends to give an advantage to candidates that are more at the party extremes, and are less moderate, which can lead to candidates winning with less than 50 percent of the support from voters.”
Under Woodbury’s and Cooper’s proposed bills, the procedure for statewide elections would be similar to Portland’s mayoral elections, where voters enacted a ranked-choice system in 2011.
The system allows voters to rank candidates according to their preference: first, second, third, etc., until they no longer have a preference or all candidates have been given a ranking.
If on Election Day no candidates receives a majority of votes, an instant runoff election occurs. Candidates with the fewest first-choice votes are eliminated, with their votes redistributed among the remaining candidates. Successive rounds continue until a candidate receives a majority.
In Portland, 15 candidates ran for mayor in 2011; Michael Brennan, who held an 850-vote lead in the popular vote, was elected in the 14th run-off round, about 24 hours after the polls closed.
Although, she doesn’t yet have a co-sponsor for her bill, Cooper said she hoped to gain support from Democrats and Republicans this week on a legislative bus tour of western Maine.
“I think instituting a runoff or ranked election is simple and easy to understand. And, it works in the system well,” Cooper said. “This isn’t a major change in the way the system works.”