Election Day saw several petitions being presented to voters at the polls, all some how related to election reforms. Two petitions seek to address the issue of big money in politics, and a third promotes a new way of voting that is familiar to Portland voters, ranked-choice, also known as instant runoff, voting.
West Ender Jacqui Deveneau spent most of Election day at Reiche collecting signatures for the We The People Maine citizen initiate. This initiative is a direct response to the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.
As Deveneau puts it, “Citzens United said that corporations are people and money is speech. That opened the floodgates to money in our elections.”
The initiate directs the Maine legislature to call on Congress to hold a Constitutional Convention to amend the Constitution to address that corporations are not people and are subordinate to people.
“Almost everybody signed the petition. It was awesome!” said Deveneau.
Also at the polls was another campaign finance reform petition from Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.
This petition seeks to strengthen the current Clean Elections law that governs Maine’s public financing system. The initiative would create a host of new rules geared towards increasing fines and penalties for those who violate campaign finance reporting requirements, requiring disclosure of top donors in campaign advertising, and requiring reporting for inaugural and transition committee fundraising for governors-elect.
It also calls for fully funding the Clean Election law by closing corporate tax loopholes.
Finally, the latest petition to hit the streets is being touted by Munjoy Hill Representative Diane Russell, independent Senator Dick Woodbury, of Yarmouth, and Eliot Cutler. This initiative would enact ranked-choice voting for all state and Federal elections in Maine.
Ranked-choice voting is the system that Portland first used in the mayoral election of 2011. Voters can rank the candidates in order of preference. After the first round of voting, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated from the race. The second-place votes from that eliminated candidate are then distributed to the remaining candidates in an instant run-off. The rounds continue until one candidate receives enough first, second, third… place votes to reach a clear majority.
Proponents argue that ranked-choice voting eliminates the so-called “spoiler-effect,” where voters choose a candidate that is not their first choice, in order to avoid a victory by their least favorite candidate. Also, they say it leads to less negative campaigning, because candidates want to be the second-choice for supporters of other campaigns.
Each of these petitions were popular in the West End on Election day.
“People came right from the (voting) booths… and once they saw ranked-choice on the table, they came over to sign it,” noted Deveneau.
The petitions may not be as popular elsewhere in the state. Betsy Garold was volunteering for We The People at the East Side polling place in Belfast. She described the poll as very conservative. She had trouble even filling a sheet, collecting less than 50 signatures.
“Halfway through my shift, a woman came over from the other polling place in Belfast, in a more progressive area of town, and said they were having no problem filling up page after page on the clean election petition, and that they also had the We The People petition and the IRV petition, both of which were doing well.”
Clearly, after the Election, at least some in Maine are ready for election reform.