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Maine’s ranked-choice recount controversy, explained

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The drama over America’s first ever ranked-choice federal election — Maine’s Second Congressional District — continues, with a hand recount beginning on Thursday at the request of losing Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin.

It’s just the latest challenge to a new voting system that has withstood challenge after challenge, but this one could take as long as four weeks to resolve — possibly leaving the seat empty when the new Congress is sworn in January 3.

The election was the first time Maine has used ranked-choice voting for a federal election, following a ballot box law passed by Maine voters in 2016 (the system cannot be used for gubernatorial or state races until after Maine changes its constitution, something Governor-elect Janet Mills has vowed to do).

The new system allows voters to number the candidates on their ballot; their alternate choices come into play if no candidate receives the majority (50 percent plus 1) of first preferences. If that happens, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and their votes redistributed to whomever those voters ranked second. This is repeated in rounds until one candidate reaches a majority. It resembles the run-off style elections held in states like Mississippi, but without needing to hold a whole new election — in a sense, simulating a series of runoff elections.

Depending on whom you ask, the new method of voting is either a push toward a more democratic system or a logistical hellscape. Despite the fact that it’s used in multiple countries around the world with little fuss, in Maine, it’s proven more the latter, thanks in part to political resistance and legal challenges from the state’s Republicans.

Where the race for Maine’s heavily contested House seat stands

In its first federal election debut in the US, ranked-choice voting made a splash: Republican Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Jared Golden each received around 46 percent of the first-preference vote, with Poliquin around 2,000 votes ahead. But after the lower vote-getters were eliminated and their votes redistributed, Golden came out 3,500 votes ahead.

Since his defeat, Poliquin has been looking for ways to contest the results, from challenging the new system’s constitutionality in federal court to demanding a recount. US District Judge Lance Walker has yet to rule on Poliquin’s lawsuit against the state, but is expected to issue a decision this week.

In response to the lawsuit, Golden’s campaign manager Jon Breed said that Poliquin should have sued before the election, not after the votes were cast, if he felt the system was unconstitutional.

But Maine Republicans were opposed beforehand. Gov. Paul LePage — whom the system was, in part, introduced in reaction against (he was elected twice without winning the majority of the vote) — called the new voting system “the most horrific thing in the world” in June, and threatened not to certify the results of the primaries. And it’s taken multiple successful state referendums to get to this point. As Vox’s Ella Nilsen reported in June:

Maine Republicans are very mad about instant-runoff voting, saying it’s unconstitutional for the government to set up an entirely new system of voting. To underscore that point, Republicans in the state Senate tried to sue Secretary of State [Matt] Dunlap to stop the process from going forward. But their proposal to halt it died on a tie vote in the Senate and was also thrown out by Kennebec Superior Court Judge Michaela Murphy in an April ruling.

Workers from Maine’s Secretary of State Office have now begun the arduous task of recounting of the 300,000 ballots, the full cost of which will be covered by Poliquin if the result does not change. Ben Grant, a Golden attorney working on the recount, said the recount should help establish confidence in the system, confident himself that the result would not change. “It’s an unfortunate delay, but it does help with the public trust in the process,” he told the Portland Press Herald.

Ranked voting is controversy-free in other parts of the world

Ranked-choice voting has been used in very few places in the US — mostly just in a handful of cities for their municipal elections — but the system is surprisingly common and drama-free in other parts of the world.

It’s been used in Australia for federal lower house seats since 1918 and in Ireland for presidential elections since 1937. A number of countries began adopting ranked-choice or “alternative” voting in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and parts of Hong Kong. British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, and all Australian states use ranked choice for state or provincial elections.

As explained by Fair Vote, the system is intended to help “elect a candidate that better reflects the support of a majority of voters.” Ranked-choice advocates say it allows voters to genuinely express their preferences, without having to vote strategically for candidates they think have a better chance of winning in order to make their vote “count.”

A large part of Poliquin’s issue with the outcome seems to be that he came first on first-preferences and then didn’t win the election, telling media outlets “I won the election fair and square.”

But that’s not how ranked-choice voting works. It’s about electing the candidate that better reflects the support of a majority of voters, not just a plurality.

In fact, in an election in the Australian state of Victoria in November, a Greens party candidate who came third on first preferences ultimately ended up winning the seat on distributed preferences. That’s not seen as unfair or un-square — it’s seen as democratic.

America’s (very) slow turn to ranked-choice

Though its well-established in other parts of the world, ranked-choice is viewed with suspicion in the US, as any new voting system is wont to be by those elected under the status quo.

But for some Americans — like voters in Fargo who recently introduced a new “approval voting” system — a new method seems increasingly necessary.

As Vox’s Kelsey Piper writes, experts consider America’s “first-past-the-post” system among the worst voting systems:

First-past-the-post favors two-party systems. It makes it unnecessary to appeal to a broad share of the electorate in multi-candidate races. Voters often have to vote strategically — for the major party candidate they dislike least — rather than honestly — for the candidate they actually want.

But while Maine Republicans have been stubborn about accepting ranked-choice, perceived by some as resistance to something that might disadvantage them politically, it’s also seen by many as too complex for the United States to switch to.

Stephen Lutz, an electoral analyst and director of Above Quota Elections, an independent company that administers elections for non-government organizations in Australia, was asked to testify before a Los Angeles council considering implementing ranked-choice in 2008. He told me he was met with complaints that the system was too confusing, and too hard for people to understand, especially for an area with many non-English speakers.

Even most Democratic leaders feels no great desire for this switch, Lutz said, because it actually makes it easier for independents and minor parties to get a seat at the table (as it has in Australia and Ireland).

But Maine voters were interested, and the Second District’s result — whenever it’s settled — will be a step forward for both the state, and US voters who are intrigued by the idea of improving our political processes.

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Bharam Episode #06

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Bharam Episode #06

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20+ Boyfriends Who Are More Gallant Than a Prince on a White Horse

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Cool husbands and boyfriends always try to make their other half feel special and the characters of our compilation are just more proof of this fact. From handmade gifts to expressing their purest manners, the men from this article are definitely doing things right.

Bright Side appreciates a sincere expression of emotions and invites you to dive into the world of love and care. Don’t miss our bonus at the end of our article — it will show you that a real prince can be extremely adorable.

21. “I replaced my wife’s bathroom scale so that she knows she is always beautiful for me.”

20. “Message from the gardener… who is also my husband.”

19. I made my girlfriend a sloth ice cream cake for her birthday because she loves ice cream and sloths.”

18. “My boyfriend of 8 years flew out to surprise me with a proposal in my favorite place.”

17. “My boyfriend left me the last piece of bacon.”

16. “I put my life on the line so my girl can have the perfect photo.”

15. “I made a bench for my wife out of wood I found in the back yard.”

14. “I’m a rock climber, so my boyfriend had these clay magnets made that look like him and me.”

13. “My boyfriend got in trouble yesterday. He sent flours to my office today to apologize.”

12. “My boyfriend surprised me with a fancy schmancy dinner.”

11. “Made an enchanted rose for my wife…”

10. “My boyfriend keeps figuring out what outfit I’m wearing out with him and matching it…”

9. “Came home from work today to this cake waiting for me!”

8. Another fancy dinner from another boyfriend

7. “My boyfriend puts cuticle conditioner on my toenails when I am too tired.”

6. “My boyfriend knew my old plant stand had broken and that I had nowhere to put my plants, so he made me one!”

5.“My boyfriend is always ready to help me with my craziest ideas.”

4. “My boyfriend tried to be cute and replaced a pizza slice with a cupcake.”

3. “I don’t have much money, so I made my girlfriend a bouquet of paper lilies as a welcome home gift. Think she’ll like them?”

2. “My boyfriend saved a piece of a rose from the first bouquet of flowers he ever brought to me and made a necklace for me for my birthday. ”

1. “I didn’t have time to go into town, so I drew a circle on my boyfriend’s hand so he could buy me the correct size hoop earrings.”

Bonus: And here’s a real prince (without a horse though) helping his princess with her hair.

Which of these deeds impressed you the most? We would be glad to hear from you in the comments!

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24 Tender Photos of Cats and Dogs Who’ve Learned What It Means to Love

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All our lives we’ve been taught that cats and dogs are enemies and that they can’t stand each other. Even the cartoons showed us this! But it’s not always the case. A lot of cats and dogs have special friendships and bonds and when that happens, it’s the most adorable thing ever!

Bright Side fully encourages peace between dogs and cats and that’s exactly why we’re excited to share with you 24 photos of our furry friends showing love for each other!

24. Watching the sunset in a cozy blanket with your friend

23. Couples posing for wedding photos

22. The dog immediately adopted the new cat and this is how they always sleep now.

21. Henry the dog and Baloo love enjoying the sunshine together.

20. This dog takes care of this one-eyed cat.

19. This dog doesn’t mind sharing the cone of shame with this kitten.

18. Little baby wants to play with his big bro.

17. Do you like this dog’s new hat?

16. Pup likes being the little spoon.

15. The softest and comfiest mattress

14. When your child wants to play with you:

13. “You’ve got this, little kitty.”

12. We might be dysfunctional, but we’re still a happy family.

11. The kitten is too small to be the big spoon.

10. Kitty is still not used to this new arrangement.

9. Both think the other is sleeping.

8. When you haven’t seen your significant other all day:

7. “Drive safe, honey.”

6. They always fight, except for when someone is taking a picture of them.

5. Looks like a romantic scene from a movie…

4. The dog is doing a good job of being a blanket.

3. This kitten loves its blanket.

2. This pup seems a little uncomfortable, but too shy to say anything.

1. When your friend is sad and you’re trying to comfort them:

If cats and dogs can get along, so can anyone else, right? These are honestly some of our most favorite types of pictures and we would love to see more! Please, if you have any photos of your pets being friendly and cute with each other don’t hesitate to share them with us!

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