Politics & Other Mistakes: Throwing in the towel

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I quit. You win.

Oops, sorry, haters. I didn’t mean to get your hopes up. I’m not ending this column. I plan to continue using it to trash former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Central Maine Power’s destructive power-line plans, stupid rules for retail marijuana sales, stupid ideas from Democratic Senate President Troy Jackson, stupid ideas from the Green Independent Party, open primaries, closed meetings, ridiculous liquor laws, unworkable gun laws, ineffectual environmental laws, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden’s chronic indecision, Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s predictable liberalism, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ artificial independence, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King’s insufferable blandness, Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro’s incurable hatefulness and numerous other outrages that should keep me supplied with topics for ridicule until I’m pushing 90.

But after this week, I’m done complaining about ranked-choice voting.

Even though ranked-choice fulfills none of its promises (it doesn’t guarantee majority winners, it doesn’t reduce negative campaigning, it doesn’t limit the influence of big money in campaigns), any reasonable assessment shows it’s here to stay in Maine, and there’ll probably be more of it in the near future. Only an idiot would think otherwise.

Speaking of which, the Maine Republican Party has launched a people’s veto campaign to stop the use of instant-runoff balloting in presidential races.

“One person, one vote is a bedrock American principle,” Republican state Chairwoman Demi Kouzounas said in a statement issued back in February. “Ranked-choice voting is a direct violation of that principle and threatens the rights of all Mainers and delegitimizes our election process.”

As a longtime opponent of this form of voting, allow me to point out the obvious: This is the stupidest argument against it that anyone could possibly dig up. Ranked-choice is complicated, time-consuming and it discards the ballots of voters who refuse to back one of the top two finishers. But everybody still gets just one vote, and nothing about it threatens anybody’s rights, particularly since it was approved by the voters in a referendum not once but twice.

Just because an obnoxious GOP congressman, Bruce Poliquin, got bounced from office in 2018 because of ranked-choice is no reason to make wildly exaggerated claims about its legitimacy. There’s every opportunity in the future for the system to result in an obnoxious Democrat’s defeat, assuming the Republicans don’t keep running Poliquin.

Unfortunately, the GOP seems intent on wasting time, money and effort collecting 63,607 signatures of registered voters within the next three months in order to get this tired proposal on the November ballot. If they gather enough names by the deadline, they’ll prevent ranked-choice from being used in this fall’s presidential election. Of course, their chances of accomplishing that in a coronavirus-obsessed environment are nonexistent, because there’ll be no large political gatherings in the foreseeable future, and going door to door makes no sense when everyone is self-quarantining.

In the unlikely event the GOP succeeds in this pointless endeavor, it still won’t help the party’s prospects. This year’s balloting will be a straight-up yes-or-no referendum on the incumbent virus in the White House. There won’t be any second choices. No spoilers. Ranked-choice won’t matter.

But hey, it’s not as if Republicans have anything better to do. Unlike the Democrats – who want to do something about everything – the GOP doesn’t really have a legislative agenda. Well, except for griping about transportation funding. Of course, during the eight years Republicans controlled the Blaine House and one or both chambers of the Legislature, they failed to offer any sort of comprehensive solution to that problem. Because Republicans aren’t fond of solutions.

Getting rid of ranked-choice isn’t any kind of solution. It’s a political ploy designed to distract the public from recognizing the party’s lack of a real agenda. It’s such an obvious smokescreen that it’s more likely to annoy people who believe we have more serious issues to confront than it is to end that kind of balloting.

It has, however, succeeded in convincing me to join the other camp.

Do I have to wash my hands after touching dumb ideas? Health tips may be emailed to [email protected].

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