Ranked Choice Beer?

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September 22, 2016 by Cody

This November marks a major election for Mainers. We of course will decide who our next President will be, whether or not marijuana will become legalized, background checks on firearms, and, among others, is Question #5, which decides whether Maine will become a ranked choice voting state.

For those not in the know, Paul LePage’s two terms in office were directly a result of Maine NOT having ranked choice voting, in that when we voted for Governor,  the candidate with the largest percentage of all candidates won the candidacy. Meaning in our case, the candidate with only 40% of the vote was elected Governor of Maine, on two separate occasions. And as you are keenly aware if you’ve lived here more than a few years, many Mainers didn’t take too kindly to having LePage elected to office…twice.

Which leads us back to Question 5. This ballot initiative is designed to change Maine law so that candidates are ranked by voters, from most preferred to least preferred. In the event that the popular candidate does not receive a majority of total votes, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated, and the votes are re-tallied based on the remaining candidates and remaining choices of voters.

In an effort to spread the word,  The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting (the organization spearheading this campaign), has developed an interesting project: a ranked choice beer election. In this process, the CRCV (acronym’s rock) has collaborated with almost two dozen Maine breweries to help voters understand what ranked choice voting is. Folks get to drink beer and learn about a new potential political system, which is all in good fun, right? No controversy to be had? Well let us examine this closer to find out, and  we’ll use a bit of a comparison to add some color.

Let us say that Question 1 on the ballot, the initiative to legalize marijuana in the state, had a similar project where breweries compared their dankest IPA’s to cannabis in order to find out which hopped beverage was most reminiscent of the hop’s favorite cousin, cannabis. Then the Committee For Being Legally Stoned  (aka CBLS) could say how benign having a casual beer contest is, so why not legalize marijuana so more Mainers could partake in the good times?

Or for Question 6, hosted by the Committee to Make Maine Look Snazzy (CMMLS), would host events to support their $100,000,000 initiative to rehab and reconstruct Maine infrastructure, in which organized hikes along Maine trails are conducted in an effort to bring awareness to how the initiative would put forth money for trail maintenance. Each trekking event could end with a local brewery offering up some tasty suds.

As I type this, it becomes more apparent that most Mainers (and likely most breweries), would be in favor of such initiatives, but if you haven’t already figured it out, my rambling is leading to a single point — should breweries be involved in political campaigns, even doing the ridiculous fictional projects I proposed? Yes, most of the ballot initiatives are fairly benign in nature, in that most Mainers will likely respond positively with their votes, but Question 5 in particular is a big deal that most Mainers need to take a long hard look at. Will this question make our votes inconsequential if we choose a less popular candidate? Maine is feverishly independent, so will ranked choice voting ruin independent candidacies?

I thought it interesting that so many major breweries in Maine (i.e. Oxbow, Banded Horn, Baxter, Geary’s, Rising Tide, etc) are perhaps involuntarily supportive of this campaign by hosting a mock beer election in their own breweries, and if they even realized this possible support?

I asked several breweries for comment in order to get a better idea of their mindset, but only Banded Horn decided to respond to my inquiry by stating, “we are happy to help with the educational aspect of the campaign by hosting the event, but are otherwise not involved.” This is the innocuous tone I was expecting from all the breweries I asked actually, and it makes sense. Banded Horn is hosting an educational event that explains what ranked choice voting is. I get this, and it certainly seems quite simple and straight forward at first glance, but these breweries are actively working with a political campaign, demonstrating their political agenda in the form of beer. Everyone loves beer folks! If you told folks that they would receive a free beer after they voted, there would be a 123% turnout statewide! If you show people how fun a beer election is with ranked choice voting, don’t you think there’s a smidge of a chance, that it could influence the way they vote? If so, than these breweries are indirectly supporting a political campaign.

I am not trying to be critical of breweries by writing this, because the beer election system is pretty clever, and seems like a fun way to drink good beer, but breweries have to be socially conscious of what they are doing. As beer becomes more of a critical infrastructure in Maine, and our reputation as a state increases worldwide as a great beer destination, the more power and influence our breweries will yield.

Socially conscious breweries are great, but understand your responsibility and own it, for Uncle Ben tells us so.

P.S. Sorry about the Spider-Man reference, it was unavoidable.


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