This post is part 2 answering the question, Why Maine? Why did Flip2020 select Maine out of all the senate swing states? In part 1, we look at Why Maine (Read part 1 here). In this post, we explore the second half of that answer: ranked choice voting.
The Flip 2020 project team has unanimously voted to endorse Independent Green Lisa Savage for U.S. Senate. We believe in her progressive platform, her proven dedication, and refusal to accept corporate campaign donations. The majority of our team also supports Democrat Sara Gideon for U.S. Senate. If Lisa Savage is knocked out of the race during the instant runoff process, we believe Sara Gideon is the best other option. It’s unusual for one organization to support two candidates in the same race but Maine’s Ranked Choice Voting makes this, and many other things, possible.
What is Ranked Choice Voting?
First, let’s start with an explanation in the form of an original song written by Katie Sontag from our crew:
In an RCV election, “Voters pick a first-choice candidate and have the option to rank backup candidates in order of their choice: second, third, and so on. If a candidate receives more than half of the first choices, that candidate wins, just like in any other election. However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an “instant runoff.” The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until a candidate wins with more than half of the votes.” (Thanks to FairVote for this description of RCV). Or to put it more simply- ranked choice voting means ranking a third party candidate #1 on your ballot and the democratic candidate #2 does not make it more likely that the republican candidate will win.
Why We Like Ranked Choice Voting
Maine’s RCV is an especially positive thing for the Flip 2020 Project. Many of our canvassers align more closely with the Green Party and progressive candidates than with mainstream Democrats. We’re delighted that because of Maine’s ranked choice voting we can support both Lisa Savage and Sarah Gideon in their Senate races. Our goal is to Flip the Senate by beating Susan Collins, electing either Savage and Gideon would accomplish that goal. We’re also realists who recognize that Sara Gideon (with her huge campaign budget) is the person most likely to beat Susan Collins this November. We’ll be encouraging progressive voters to “Rank Lisa First, Blue Number 2” and actively supporting both candidates.
Progressive and independent voters often have a difficult decision to make at election time—do we vote for a candidate who has values that match ours, or the candidate who is more likely to get enough votes to win? In a close race when every vote counts, we have to make a difficult choice between voting for a progressive or against the Republican (which generally means voting for a Democrat). In the face of this choice, and with our preferred candidates unlikely to win, some third party voters (progressives, greens, independents, and others) stay home. It’s a serious issue in American politics.
Motivating independent and progressive voters is especially pertinent in Maine, where more voters are registered independent than either Democratic or Republican. Maine’s current senators also show that the state shows strong support for independent candidates, because the Republican incumbent Susan Collins is the least popular senator in the states, but the Independent incumbent Angus King is the most popular senator in the states. Finally, for independent voters frustrated with the centrist rhetoric of the Democratic Party, ranking “Lisa First, Blue Number 2” makes their desire for Medicare for All and a demilitarized Green New Deal clear, yet doesn’t risk losing the seat.