The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
The role that ranked-choice voting played in Alaska’s recently decided special Congressional election has drawn understandable comparisons to Maine and our partial use of that electoral system. Unfortunately, some of the same terrible ranked-choice arguments that were made here are now being replayed in Alaska.
After former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin lost her bid for Congress in the final round of tabulation, Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas was quick to go after ranked-choice voting with irresponsible rhetoric.
In a tweet, Cotton said ranked-choice voting “is a scam to rig elections.” His comments immediately transported us back to 2018, when former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin ultimately lost to current Rep. Jared Golden after initially leading in the vote tally but failing to secure a majority. Golden, a Democrat, leapfrogged Poliquin, a Republican, in subsequent ranked-choice tabulations and won the seat under the new ranked-choice system that voters approved in 2016. Poliquin incorrectly claimed that he won the election “fair and square” and then-Gov. Paul LePage wrote “stolen election” on the document certifying the results.
It might be a good time to remind folks that a federal judge in Bangor, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, firmly rejected Poliquin’s legal challenge to ranked-choice voting here in Maine.
“Whether RCV is a better method for holding elections is not a question for which the Constitution holds the answer,” Judge Lance Walker said at the time. “By design, the freedoms and burdens of self-governance leave normative questions of policy to be worked out in the public square and answered at the ballot box.”
Said another way: Some people may not like ranked-choice voting, but Maine voters (and Alaska voters) have decided to use it to elect at least some of their officials. Certain candidates may not like it, but their preferences don’t supersede the will of the voters.
There’s a big difference between a lost election and a stolen election. Being disappointed with the results isn’t the same thing as being disenfranchised or having an election stolen from you. Duly enacted election laws and procedures apply to everyone, whether they agree with them or not.
We didn’t think we’d have to explain this to the supposed “rule of law” crowd, but here we are, yet again.
It may sound strange for an editorial board in Bangor, Maine, to be disappointed in a senator from Arkansas, but that is where we find ourselves. This is because in early January of 2021, when Trump was ramping up his stolen election rhetoric ahead of the Jan. 6 electoral count certification in Congress, Cotton stood firmly against objecting to that certification. He deferred to the Constitution rather than political convenience. We wish he would revisit his own remarks from that time.
We haven’t been big fans of ranked-choice voting and still don’t believe that it’s delivered on its promises to make politics less contentious. We opposed the first Maine ranked-choice referendum in 2016. We’ve highlighted the complications and confusion that resulted. We also opposed a subsequent referendum that overrode the Legislature’s move to slow the implementation of the initial ranked-choice law.
But here’s the thing: Maine voters disagreed with us. Twice. We respect that reality.
As we hope we’ve demonstrated over the years, it is possible to raise concerns about ranked-choice voting and its implementation without questioning the actual legitimacy of elections. It is beyond disappointing to see losing candidates and other officials repeatedly fail to do the same.