In these hectic and divisive times — when many seem to be questioning the very underpinnings of democracy, and whether or not we even have the right to self-determination as expressed by the will of the voters and the idea of “majority rule” — it is important to take stock of the victories that the movement for a fairer and freer democracy have had in recent years. Ranked-choice voting is one of those victories.

Not once, but twice the people of Maine have spoken resoundingly in favor of this new way of electing our leaders that allows for more voices to be heard in our electoral politics. Gone are the days of voting for “the lesser to two evils” simply because pragmatically it makes sense to vote for the candidate you dislike in order to defeat the candidate you really dislike. Ranked-choice voting will allow us to vote our hopes and not our fears when electing representatives to the U.S. Congress and Senate in November.

Ranked-choice voting is easy to understand. A voter can rank as many or as few candidates as they wish, including write-ins. If one candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round — meaning more than half the votes — they win, just like in a typical election. In that case, there is no need to count votes in subsequent rounds. In fact, just such a scenario was demonstrated in the June primaries when Republican voters elected their favored candidate for governor, Shawn Moody, with a majority in the first round.

In the event that no candidate emerges with a majority however, the ranked-choice voting process is employed to determine exactly which candidate has the broadest support and which one best represents most of Maine people. In this situation, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated in each round, and people who liked that canidate the best then have their votes transferred to their second choice, or for whichever candidate they have ranked that hasn’t yet been eliminated. This process is repeated until one candidate emerges with a majority. This process was used in June’s Democratic gubernatorial primary in which Janet Mills, who earned the plurality of votes in the first round, emerged victorious with the majority of votes in the last round. Mills can now run confidently knowing that her campaign is supported by the majority of Democrats who voted in that party’s primary.

Unfortunately, due to Maine’s quirky history and a state constitutional amendment that was passed in 1880, we will not be using ranked-choice voting in this year’s gubernatorial race in which there are several strong independent candidates running. Maine people have twice spoken in favor of ranked-choice voting, and it is now time for lawmakers to do the bidding of the people who elected them and pass a constitutional amendment to allow for RCV in all races, state and federal.

Thankfully we will be using RCV to elect our representatives to the U.S. Senate and to the U.S. Congress. In one such example, in the race for Congress between the incumbent Democrat Chellie Pingree, independent Marty Grohman, and Republican Mark Holbrook, voters can rank their preferences. Say that many independent voters who are fed up with the two-party system would ideally like to send an independent like themselves to Congress, but they are happy with many of the policy positions of Pingree over those proposed by Holbrook. In this case, those voters can rank Marty Grohman first and Chellie Pingree second without fear of helping to elect their least favorite candidate. It makes all the sense in the world, and gives voters more say in how our government works.

Mainers are not the type of people who wait around for an answer to be dictated to them from on-high for solutions to their problems. We are the type who take initiative and find creative ways to solve issues that are affecting us at home. Ranked-choice voting is a perfect example of this spirit. The more people get to use, know, and understand ranked-choice voting, the more they tend to like it. Please visit www.morevoice.org for more help understanding how this process works, and its current standing in Maine. We are leading the way on this issue to fix our democracy, and as Mainers, we should all feel proud of that accomplishment.