Documentarians John Farrell and Jake Simms accidentally stumbled across the second most important vote happening in the United States on election day while researching and recording for their election series “Third Canddiates .” The vote in question is Maine’s “Question 5.” A citizen initiative that would implement Ranked Choice Voting, a new voting system, for all state level elections.
The documentarians spoke and recorded the citizens who got Ranked Choice Voting on the ballot and the activists involved in educating their communities about the new voting system to learn the history of the initiative and why Maine is THE place to run this experiment.
“It was just kind of dumb luck that we happened to be talking to Fairvote about debate access criteria AND were going to be in Maine speaking with libertarians about their effort to be a recognized state party. At first it was going to be a short little mention in an episode we had planned, but once we got in town and started connecting with everyone, we realized it made sense to spin it into it’s own stand alone episode. It’s a really important experiment they’re trying to do up there,” says Simms.
The episode “As Maine Goes” was published on November 3rd.
“The story behind Maine’s Question 5 is hope, that if it passes on November 8th, the new voting method will combat strategic voting (aka ‘lesser evil voting’), negative campaigns, and the spoiler effect. Things just about everyone can get behind after the tumultous 2016 cycle,” says Farrell, “even if Ranked Choice Voting doesn’t get widely adopted, a ‘yes’ vote can be a stimulus to other cities and states to experiment with how we cast and count our ballots,” he added.
Our current voting method, First Past the Post, is one of the simpliest methods of conducting democratic elections. The simplicity comes with a downside, and many experts on voting methods claim it is one of, if not the worst, method in regards to capturing the true sentiment of the public.
In the 2016 election, Green Party and Libertarian candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson have been labeled spoilers who could decide the outcome of the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. “Spoiler” is an effective, negative label that eats time from policy conversation and invites quicker dismissal from the public and media.
What Farrell and Simms hope to show with this episode is that it is not just institutions and laws that make things difficult for third parties and independents. The very structure of how we cast and count our ballots naturally trends towards two parties, and it isn’t set in stone.
“As Maine Goes” is the third episode in a series on the 2016 election from a non-major party perspective.