Ranked-choice voting is the methamphetamine of politics. Once you start using it, you can’t stop, even though your teeth fall out, your internal organs fail, and you develop skin conditions so gross they’d cause Dr. Pimple Popper to run screaming from the room.
But like meth addicts, fans of ranked-choice are resolute in their belief it makes their dreary lives worth living. They insist it assures a majority winner, even though it does no such thing (Jared Golden won the 2nd Congressional District seat last year with about 48 percent of the vote).
Those hooked on RCV claim it forces candidates to be more civil, even though that aforementioned 2nd District race was the nastiest Maine campaign in decades. The delirious drug users mumble that it reduces the influence of big money, ignoring the fact the 2nd District contest was the most expensive in the nation.
And instant runoff addicts proclaim it allows fringe candidates a voice in the process, when all it really does is cause folks like independent Will Hoar, who barely bothered to campaign for the 2nd District seat, to clutter up the ballot.
Nevertheless, we’ve got to learn to live with it (Suboxone, anyone?). Ranked-choice is state law, at least for primary elections and congressional races. In fact, we might have to live with even more of it, because those poor souls RCV has reduced to wretched dependence will almost certainly attempt to amend the Maine Constitution to infect gubernatorial and legislative races with this deceptive drug. And in Portland, where ranked-choice is already used to elect the mayor, there’s a move to extend its reach to City Council and School Board races.
Legislative Republicans have just enough votes to block a constitutional amendment expanding RCV, but are otherwise as toothless as meth addicts. When it comes to ridding us of instant runoffs, the GOP gets delusional (meth is apparently a bipartisan drug). Former Gov. Paul (Florida Boy) LePage urged his party’s state committee (new motto: Now With Even More Trump) to pursue a referendum repealing ranked-choice. According to LePage, “In order to succeed, we cannot sit by and allow the (Democrats) and out-of-state money to rob us of our way of life.”
Since RCV has already won two statewide votes (would you care for some crystal meth with your ballot?), there’s little likelihood such an approach would succeed. That leaves opponents with one alternative:
File a federal lawsuit.
That’s been tried before, too. Ex-Congressman Bruce Poliquin, after losing his seat to Golden, went to court challenging the constitutionality of ranked choice and asking to have the election invalidated. U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker, an appointee of President Donald (I don’t need no meth to act like I’m on meth) Trump, told Poliquin there was almost no chance he’d win on the constitutional issue and no grounds to toss the election results.
Poliquin announced that it would be “completely irresponsible” if he didn’t pursue his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Then, he dropped it.
A common side effect of meth addiction is loss of focus.
There is, however, nothing to stop the GOP from picking up where Poliquin failed to follow through. There’s never been a definitive high-court ruling on the constitutionality of RCV, and it would be worthwhile to clear up its legality.
After which, we can all sink back into our drug-induced delusions about democracy.
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