Maine and Pennsylvania make strides in electoral reform
By David McCorquodale, Delaware
Developments in Maine and Pennsylvania within the past few years will help bring fairer elections to this country. Greens were involved in bringing about both.
In Maine the voters in a 2016 referendum passed the use of Ranked Choice Voting in state elections and it was used in a general statewide election for the ﬁrst time in 2018. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) was initially implemented in 2011 in Portland, Maine. Portland has a strong Green Party presence with several Greens having served in city council positions.
Following success in Portland, a committee for Ranked Choice Voting was formed to push for statewide use. One of the leaders for RCV on the committee was Green Party member John Eder, who had previously served in the state legislature.
After initial passage of the law and a favorable ruling in court, the state legislature could not agree on how to amend the constitution to accommodate RCV and had effectively set up a situation to kill it. But the committee for RCV stepped in to gather more than 80,000 signatures opposing the legislature’s action. While RCV voting has been used in June elections, a funding issue has prevented it being implemented in presidential primaries and the general election. Legislators hope to ﬁx that problem next January. This type of voting will allow Greens to run without being depicted as spoilers.
Greens also spear headed a move to bring greater election integrity to Pennsylvania. Jill Stein took the lead in putting the state to task. She challenged the state in a lawsuit after the 2016 election, alleging that without paper ballots the results were vulnerable to tampering.
In the fall of 2018 the suit was settled when the state agreed to purchase new voting machines that would leave a veriﬁable paper trail by 2020. Within two years after purchase the state will begin to audit voting results. This is a major step towards election integrity, as Pennsylvania is the last state to move to obtain voting machines with veriﬁ-able paper backup ballots.
Bruce Dixon in his commentary on Black Agenda Report said about Stein’s lawsuit, “Fact is, the lawsuit contributed mightily to what is now a broad and nonpartisan groundswell against faith-based electronic voting, that includes Republican candidates for ofﬁce as well as Democrats and Greens.”
Unfortunately, late insertions into the PA legislation authorizing the funding by the Republican legislature, which would eliminate straight-party ticket voting, caused the Democratic governor to veto the legislation. The governor has ordered a bond issue to help counties pay for the new voting machines. Despite delays, paper backup ballots is another step towards an electoral process that is less corrupt and more democratic.
It’s interesting to see how RCV played out in Maine after the recent elections in comparison to the fight to get it implemented.