Testimony: Repealing Ranked-Choice Voting (LD 1038)


Testimony in Support of LD 1038: “An Act to Reinstate Plurality Voting by Repealing the Ranked-choice Voting Laws”

Senator Hickman, Representative Supica, and the distinguished members of the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, my name is Nick Murray and I serve as director of policy for Maine Policy Institute. We are a free market think tank, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that advocates for individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of LD 1038.

Ranked-Choice Voting is a fad, and a costly failure, both in practice, and in the abstract. Political scientists have studied it and found that greater ballot complexity drives “the negative effect of RCV…[which] increases as elections become less competitive, and that it increases with the number of candidates.”

Voters should understand that, under RCV, their votes may not count.

As Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to The New York Post in 2021, “Ranked choice voting is not beneficial to minorities. It’s voter suppression.”

Think of it this way: less than one percent of mailed ballots are rejected in the average U.S. election, but a 2019 Maine Policy Institute analysis of nearly 100 RCV races found that, on average, “exhausted ballots” made up more than 10-times that amount. For those not familiar with the term, exhausted ballots occur when a voter does not rank one of the two final-round candidates, and their ballot is removed from the final tally.

A report by Princeton professor Nolan McCarty submitted to the U.S. District Court in Maine found that, in 15 of 98 races studied, more than 20 percent of ballots were exhausted. McCarty also found higher rates of exhausted ballots among electorates with more elderly and non-college-educated voters.

In other words, these voters cast legible ballots, but were ultimately excluded when determining the “majority winner.” How can a system be branded as more democratic when it relies on removing ballots from the final count to arrive at its false majority?

Often because of high rates of exhausted ballots, more than six-in-ten RCV winners do not earn a majority of votes cast. Some say this can be solved through voter education, but McCarty saw higher rates of exhausted ballots even among electorates with more experience with RCV elections.

Under RCV, not only must voters understand the issues and candidates on their ballots, but they must strategically plot their choices to maximize their effect on the outcome. By declining to rank every candidate or choosing to vote for less-widely popular third-party candidates, their votes are unwillingly diluted.

In this way, RCV has its own “spoiler effect,” similar to the way in which today’s third-party voters must succumb when asked to choose one of the two major party candidates to avoid “throwing away a vote.” It is certainly no better in this regard.

One thing is certain: RCV is inherently more complex and confusing to voters than the status quo, which is reflected in the level of exhausted ballots and disaffected voting blocs.

Voting systems should meet some basic criteria: casting a ballot is as easy as possible, and that every voter is assured that his or her vote will count equally toward the result. Unfortunately, RCV fails even these simple tests.

Please deem LD 1038 “Ought To Pass” and restore Maine’s elections to a clear standard of binary ballots and plurality vote counting instead of relying on opaque and unaccountable RCV tabulation. Thank you for your time and consideration.