Ranked choice voting in Maine, reversing gerrymandering, and other positive results

A joke that is making the rounds is that for Democrats this has been more of a Hanukkah election than a Christmas one in that each new day seems to bring new gifts.

Maine had introduced ranked-choice voting, something that should be adopted everywhere. This is where people mark their ballots in order of preference for candidates. If no one wins 50% of the vote, then the second choices of the voters who voted for the last place finisher are taken into account, and if that does not produce a clear winner, then the third choices, and so on. There are various ways of doing this but all these methods enable people to vote for the people they like best and not fear that they are ‘wasting’ their vote by voting for someone who has little chance of winning and thus enabling the person they hate most to win.

In the second congressional district in Maine, we see the system in action.

Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden is favored to beat U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a ranked-choice voting count that could decide the tight race in the 2nd Congressional District, according to exit polling conducted by the Bangor Daily News.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting to the BDN, Poliquin, a two-term Republican, had 46.2 percent of votes to 45.7 percent for Golden, a Democrat. Because no candidate earned a majority of the first round vote, the election is moving to a ranked-choice count that Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office has begun today in Augusta.

It means the spotlight is now on the 8 percent of voters who picked a nonpartisan candidate as their first choice in the 2nd District race. Their later-round choices between Golden and Poliquin likely will decide the election when Dunlap’s office finishes the count next week.

Meanwhile Josh Marshall writes that the election was indeed a referendum on Donald Trump and that Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives this time has a better chance of staying intact than the previous time it happened.

Especially in the House, it almost didn’t matter how good or flawed a candidate was. If President Trump had lost the district, the Democrat was almost certainly going to win. If the president had won it by more than five points, the Republican was a near-lock to win.

The good news for Democrats is a fair amount of their new House seats are in districts that should stay with their party if the 2020 election doesn’t end up looking much different from 2016 — unlike their last House majority, which was built heavily on heavily conservative rural districts that Democrats had no business holding in the long run.

Another important result is that democrats have a better chance of halting or even reversing the rampant gerrymandering that the Republicans have engaged in over the last couple of decades that has resulted in them having a much higher representation in Congress than their vote totals would justify.

Tuesday’s election results gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives for at least the next two years. But their success elsewhere on the ballot puts them in a better position to control it for the next decade after that.

With Democratic candidates for governor and state lawmaker winning in several key states, the party broke Republican monopolies that redrew the political maps after the 2010 census – maps that have given the GOP an advantage in congressional elections in the years since.

On Tuesday, Democrats picked up full control of state governments in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, New York and Nevada.

In several states where Republicans held full control – Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin – they will now share power with Democrats.

Most of those states will hold state legislative elections again in 2020. But Democratic wins this year will strengthen their hand when states face the once-a-decade task of redrawing the congressional district lines in 2021.

“The Republicans are on notice that the playing field and the rules will be different after 2020,” said Jeffrey Wice, a Democratic redistricting attorney.

When it comes to rigging elections in the US, it is not what is illegal that is shocking but what is done that is legal.


  1. says

    Will the Dems be able to resist the temptation to gerrymander? Given the way the party establishment is willing to manipulate its own votes, I’m not hopeful. Of course the Democrats have a long way to go to get as bad as the Republicans but they may feel “energized”

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Will the Dems be able to resist the temptation to gerrymander?

    Look to Maryland and New Mexico for the answer to that.

  3. says

    I feel mixed on the subject of a democratic gerrymander.

    On the one hand, I want them to do the ethical thing.

    On the other hand, SCOTUS being what it is, they are much more likely to rule against a democratic gerrymander than against a republican one -- and they are apparently willing to tolerate a couple democratic gerrymanders if the Rs are getting dramatically free seats in the House from their gerrymanders than the Dems are getting from theirs.

    Thus, it may be that only widespread Democratic gerrymandering can cause the court to uphold the 1A right to free association and ban partisan gerrymanders once and for all. Would widespread Dem gerrymanders have a (further) corrupting effect on the Ds? Would the means be worth the ends? I honestly don’t know. The gerrymander has got to go, and it’s either through citizen voting in initiatives or through SCOTUS that it will be killed -- but citizen initiatives are only state by state, and in most states where citizen initiative amendments to the state constitution are disallowed, the leg can undo those initiatives anytime they want, if the gov doesn’t veto.

    So it’s SCOTUS, a federal constitutional amendment or, well, nothing really. In light of that, would a temporary Dem gerrymander be acceptable as a means to reach a permanent and just solution? Yeesh, I hate that that might be true, but it might…

  4. Holms says

    If it’s legal, do it; only then will Reps agree to non-partisan zoning performed by neutral parties. It’s the Church of Satan way.

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