In a week when the national political spotlight shines on the President’s derogatory word choices, the people of Maine are working to make things more inclusive, better represent democracy and keep the will of the people alive. One of Maine’s own, Jon Fishman, drummer for the band PHISH and fresh off four shows at Madison Square Garden, sat down to help collect signatures for Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) at Bayside Bowl in Portland.
Bayside Bowl is owned by former state senator Justin Alfond and Charlie Mitchell. Mitchell comes from political stock, his mother is former gubernatorial candidate and the first person to be elected Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives followed by State Senate President, Libby Mitchell. This cavalcade of politics, bowling and music is fascinating and underscores how the issue of Ranked Choice Voting joins people from all walks.
Here is the timeline of how Ranked Choice Voting has evolved:
Nov. 2014 Signature collection begins to put Ranked Choice Voting on the ballot. More than 73,000 signatures are collected.
Nov. 2015 Secretary of State verifies signatures.
Nov. 2016 – The people of Maine pass RCV in the second largest referendum vote in the state’s history.
May 2017 – Maine’s Law court offers a non-binding advisory opinion saying there may be issues with certain races.
Oct. 2017 – The Legislature votes to delay and repeal implementation of RCV until 2021.
Nov. 2017- People’s veto is launched. The committee removes the races that “may” represent a constitutional issue. Those without an issue will be on the ballot in June of 2018.
Nov 2017 – Feb. 2018 – Signature collecting begins and 1600 volunteers from across the state, work in subzero temperatures to meet the Feb. 2nd deadline to submit the signatures to the Secretary of State.
This brings us to the current collecting of 61,123 signatures with the drummer from Phish. Jon Fishman echoes the sentiment we heard repeatedly as people continued to sign petitions to overturn the legislature’s decision. He told the crowd that his bottom line is: it is unacceptable for the people to pass a law only to have the legislature overturn it.
In the meantime, legislators are still writing letters to the editor saying that the people did not know what they were voting on in a referendum. Mind you, these are the same people who put said legislators in office.
The Secretary of State, Matt Dunlap is opposed and has used hyperbole such as this to describe RCV:
You could have cars burning in the streets. And what I said at the time was doing nothing is the equivalent of leaving a loaded revolver on a swing set. There’s going to be a disaster, it’s just a matter of when.” – WLOB Sept. 2017
It is believed that the people will obtain the necessary signatures in time, but already rumors abound in Augusta that those opposed are trying to cook up another idea to circumvent the will of the people. Actions like this feed into why people feel disenfranchised from their elected officials and feel their votes don’t count. The most impressive aspect to this story is that in 90 days, in what has been described as the largest volunteer effort in Maine’s referendum history, the delivery of those signatures will demonstrate how the people of Maine refuse to give up. Now, will they be heard?