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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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Cute Baby Dresses New Fashion Trend

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Cute Baby Dresses New Fashion Trend

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26 Cat Tattoos That Can Leave a Paw Print on Your Heart

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Tattoos are so popular that, for example, Americans spend $1.65 billion on them every year. As we know, cats are popular too. And real magic happens when these 2 things combine into one. We get great and unusual images of fluffies that perfectly emphasize their grace, sweetness and beauty.

We at Bright Side love cats and everything that’s connected with them. Therefore, we want to show you beautiful tattoos of these incredible animals. And we warn you that after seeing these, you might also want to get a couple of tattoos.

1. “So…I got a tattoo of our 1-eyed floof.”

2. Beauty in minimalism

3. Cattoo

4. Sleeping with a mini-copy of itself

5. Magnetic eyes

6. 2 cats are better than 1

7. One line is enough to show grace.

8. A baby with its toy

9. “The tattoo I got of my cat Spice who passed over the rainbow bridge last year”

10. Here’s what tenderness looks like:

11. Bright colors make everything shine.

12. This kitten fits in the palm of your hand.

13. “Got this tattoo today of my boy who sadly passed away 3 months ago. I had 9 amazing years with him.”

14. The prettiest tiger ever

15. Fluffy squad

16. “OMG! Is it me?”

17. “Aristocats” tattoo

18. Exactly the same

19. Art of balancing

20. “I just love her so much and this came out absolutely perfect. My little cosmic goddess, baby girl Stevie!”

21. Don’t mess with this kitty.

22. Cats are never too much.

23. “2 brothers, 1 love”

24. Kittens are experts in romance.

25. The smell of freedom

26. “I’ll sit here for a bit.”

Would you ever get a cat tattoo? Or maybe you already have one! Share your thoughts and photos in the comments.

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23 Times We Wanted to Arrest the Police for Being Too Cool

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The police have a tough and pretty serious job to accomplish, so it’s really something when policemen surprise us with their sense of humor… Yes! They have a funny side too. Seeing them in cute photos taken when on duty or capturing themselves in ironic moments makes us want to offer them a hug.

At Bright Side we made a compilation of all the moments when people on duty proved to us that they are more than just serious law enforcement officials and that they take some time to chill just like we do.

1. When you are on duty but… SNOW ANGELS!

2. The roads were closed for the annual goose parade.

3. My iguana ran away, but the police found him. I had to pick him up from jail.

4. Junior class is always the hardest.

5. You know how it’s said that policemen love donuts, well they even workout with them.

6. When your Pokémon Go obsession is out of control:

7. This playground is totally safe.

8. A police officer was hired to supervise students because of a drug problem in school, but ended up playing magic the gathering with them.

9. Cops? What cops?

10. They were called to help with the snow but… Hey! If you don’t enjoy your job…

11. If you drink and drive your luxury room is already booked for you.

12. Parma Police officers found a bird and its nest at the base of a police car’s windshield, and they did their best to protect it.

13. Just don’t speed or you’ll get serenaded at your car door.

14. My friend is a cop in Australia and was put in charge of the traffic signs in his town. Oh, and he loves Ghostbusters.

15. Nobody move! We are going to search every dog in town.

16. But we love Cheetos on winter nights…

17. The police were called to campus today. I guess they got the job done.

18. Free advice for drivers:

19. Saving you from high temperatures too!

20. Good partners make space for each other.

21. That’s it! No more star wars for you mister.

22. Policemen chasing criminals in rollerblades, how cool is that!

23. Using her radar gun to make people smile, that’s a first.

We truly enjoy watching people have fun, especially those whose jobs are usually tough. And seeing their amusing personalities unfold is just an added bonus! Have you caught moments like this on the street? Do you have a cool story that includes the police? Share it in the comments.

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