Maine Becomes First State To Try Ranked-Choice Voting for President

Voting for Libertarian, Green, or independent candidates will not mean “throwing your vote away.”


Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins

This November, Maine voters won’t be “throwing their votes away” if they decide to vote for a third-party candidate because they’ll still be able to vote for Joe Biden or Donald Trump.

On Monday, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court upheld the use of ranked-choice voting for its presidential and congressional races, resisting efforts by the state’s Republican Party to force a stop to its use.

In ranked-choice voting, citizens aren’t asked to just choose a single candidate. They are permitted to rank the candidates from most to least favorite. In order to win a ranked-choice vote, a candidate is required to earn a majority of the votes (more than 50 percent), not just a plurality. In the event no candidate gets a majority of the votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is tossed out of the running. Then the votes are tallied again, but for voters whose favorite was just tossed out, their second choice now counts as their vote. This continues until one candidate has earned at least 50 percent of the votes.

Proponents of ranked-choice voting argue that this pushes races away from polarizing winner-takes-all campaigns and allows people to support independent and third-party candidates while still being able to vote for the Democratic or Republican Party nominee if they so choose.

Fair representation is the principle that a legislature should reflect all of the voters who elect them.
Fair representation is the principle that a legislature should reflect all of the voters who elect them.

Ranked-choice voting was approved by the Maine voters twice, but the state’s Republican Party has been resistant. Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage served two terms without ever winning a majority of the vote. In 2018, Republican incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin ended up losing his U.S. House seat to Democratic challenger Jared Golden, because more independent voters broke in Golden’s direction when they ranked the candidates.

Poliquin sued to try to stop ranked-choice from taking his seat away from him and lost. Republicans then gathered signatures to try, yet again, to repeal ranked-choice voting this election. The courts determined the effort did not gather enough signatures, and Maine voters will officially use this system for electing both president and congressional representatives come November (the state’s constitution has specific rules for how state lawmakers are elected and does not permit the use of ranked-choice voting).

Maine has five presidential candidates that will be on the ballot. In addition to Trump and Biden, voters can choose the Libertarian Party, Green Party, and Alliance Party candidates. Voters can also rank Trump or Biden (or both, or neither) and have their votes counted.

The latest polling in Maine suggests that ranked-choice voting might not make much of a difference in the presidential election results there. Several polls have Biden crossing the majority vote threshold even when accounting for the influence of the third-party candidates. Maine, though, is one of only two states that directs some electoral votes based on which candidates win individual congressional districts, so Trump could still feasibly pick up an electoral vote while most go to Biden. In the 2016 election, for example, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in Maine—and thus three of its electoral votes—but Trump also picked up an electoral vote as well since he won the most votes in the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

On the other hand, Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins faces a strong challenge from Democrat Sara Gideon and polls don’t currently predict either getting a majority vote. The presence of two independent candidates in the race—Max Patrick Linn, who is running a pro-Trump, anti-immigration campaign, and Lisa Savage, who is running in favor of Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and ending student debt—might also shake things up. Polling from Suffolk University that accounts for ranked-choice voting currently shows Gideon reaping 48 percent of the second-place votes, compared to 19 percent for Collins.

Ranked-choice voting may very well affect Maine’s outcomes this November.


Granola Empire In Rural Maine Anticipates 33 Percent Growth In 2019

Aaron Anker (left) and Nat Peirce, owners of Grandyoats, stand in front of solar panels powering their granola company in Hiram, Maine.
Aaron Anker (left) and Nat Peirce, owners of Grandyoats, stand in front of solar panels powering their granola company in Hiram, Maine.

Aaron Anker and Nat Peirce, co-owners of Grandyoats, are anticipating startup-like growth next year for their 40-year-old granola company, based in rural Maine.

Over the past two years the company has grown by 33 percent, according to Anker, but in 2019 alone, Grandyoats will grow another 33 percent, Anker says.

Grandyoats doesn’t share revenue numbers, but Anker says they produce 2 million pounds of organic granola trail mix annually in the converted elementary school in Hiram, Maine, where the company is located.

So that means if all goes according to plan, Grandyoats will produce 2.6 million pounds of granola in 2019, distributed nationwide to independent and chain natural food stores, conventional grocery stores and more than 80 universities, including the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. The company also sells online, direct to customers.

Driving this growth is a new granola called Coconola, a grain-free mixture featuring coconut. Anker says it’s “flying off the shelves.”

Coconola on the pan. Granola Maine Production
Coconola on the pan. Granola Maine Production

“People are wising up,” Anker said. “They want less sugar, more nutrients and 100 percent organic ingredients. We’re hitting those markers and consumers are rewarding us.”

Nat Peirce bought Grandyoats from the two women, Sarah Carpenter and Penny Hood, who founded the company in 1979 in Skowhegan, Maine, and ran it for 19 years.

“They purposely kept it small as a secondary source of income for themselves, and also as an opportunity to get together with a handful of their friends and make a great product, while also talking about politics, about their kids and what was going on in their lives,” Peirce said. “It was a social event.”

Peirce was running a small retail bakery and café in Bridgton, Maine, when he connected with Carpenter and Hood through a mutual friend, and agreed to buy Grandyoats. The timing was perfect. Peirce was looking for opportunities to get into wholesale sales, and the Grandyoats founders were looking to pass the torch.

“This sounds right, let’s do this,” Peirce remembers saying at the time. “We shook hands and that was the start of the transition.”

It was March 1997. Three years later, in 2000, Peirce connected with college friend Aaron Anker. He knew Anker had experience in sales and marketing, working for a juice company called Fresh Samantha that grew from $8 million in sales to $38 million in sales in two years, eventually merging with Odwalla and ultimately selling to Coca-Cola.

Based on his experience with Fresh Samantha, Anker was thinking about starting a consulting business, taking Maine brands national, and was interested in Grandyoats. Peirce suggested joining the company as co-owner instead.

The partners bought the vacant elementary school in Hiram, population 1,619, for $175,000 two and a half years ago. They got 420 feet of frontage on the Saco River as part of the deal.

“It’s real nice in the summer to have lunch and then jump in,” Peirce said.

They also got eight and a half acres of level playing fields where they installed 288 solar panels to provide the electricity they and their 30 employees need to crank out Coconola and the company’s other brands of granola. Grandyoats, by the way, is the largest employer in Hiram.

At first, the solar panels were providing all the power Grandyoats needed. But with their explosive growth, they fell a little short last year, generating about 90 percent of the power they needed. The partners bought wind credits to make up the difference so their company remained 100 percent powered by renewable energy.

“We’re not a massive company, but we’re big enough to make a difference,” Peirce said.

Forbes – [source]

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