Two of the proposals would change Maine’s popular election system into a run-off election system, while two additional bills would enact ranked choice voting.
All four proposals will impose significant costs on the state and its municipalities and are designed to prevent candidates from winning elections with a plurality of the popular vote.
Sen. John Tuttle (D-York) has introduced L.D. 1358, An Act To Amend the Election Laws To Require a Run-off Election for Governor. Tuttle’s proposal, which is explicitly aimed at Blaine House contenders, is similar to Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos’s (U-Friendship) L.D. 1219, a bill that would establish a run-off electoral system for Maine’s gubernatorial and federal elections.
Sen. Richard Woodbury (D-Cumberland) and Rep. Diane Russel (D-Portland) have introduced, respectively, L.D. 518 and L.D. 860, a pair of proposals that would establish ranked-choice voting in Maine. Russel’s bill would extend to gubernatorial and state legislative elections, while Woodbury’s bill would apply to every candidate election held in the state.
In a run-off election, such as those Tuttle and Evangelos are proposing, two elections are held: The first election determines the top two candidates; the second asks voters to choose between those two.
For example, under the run-off election system, the 2010 gubernatorial general election would have been followed by a second election with only Governor LePage and Eliot Cutler on the ballot.
In a ranked-choice voting system, voters rank candidates according to their preferences and that information is used to simulate a run-off election.
All of the proposals have received significant co-sponsorship from the Democratic Party. Russel’s bill (L.D. 860) has 49 co-sponsors.
Practically-speaking, these proposals, if passed, would prevent a certain 2014 independent gubernatorial candidate from “spoiling” the Democrats chance to oust Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage.
While none of the four proposals have fiscal notes at present, the potential changes could double or even triple the cost of administering elections in Maine towns and across the state.
So at the same time Democrats are protesting cuts to revenue-sharing agreements between the state and its municipalities, they are also pursuing ideological election reforms for which Maine’s cities and towns will foot the bill.