Ranked Choice Voting is here to stay!
For the first time in our nation’s history, Maine voters used ranked choice voting to select their parties’ nominees for governor, and US House of Representatives in Maine’s second congressional district, in the June 12th primary election. Voters in one state legislative district were also able to use RCV to select a Republican nominee to the Maine House of Representatives. With the simultaneous passage of the people’s veto, Mainers will continue to use RCV for primary elections and races for US House of Representatives and US Senate moving forward. We will not use ranked choice voting in the general elections races for governor and state legislature. We would need a constitutional amendment to allow that for the future.
If you did not vote in Maine’s June 12th primary, and will be using ranked choice voting for the first time in November, here’s what you need to know.
The process is remarkably simple. You may not realize it, but you rank your choices all the time! Sometimes you want one flavor of ice cream for dessert and nothing else will do, but other times you’d be satisfied with rocky road or mint chocolate chip, if that triple chocolate brownie explosion is out of stock.
Just as you have a variety of dessert options to satisfy your sweet tooth, in Maine you often have a variety of candidates to choose from in any given race. Most likely you have a favorite, but chances are there is another candidate or candidates you’d be happy to have represent you if your first choice doesn’t come out on top.
So, when you walk into that voting booth on election day, or fill out your absentee ballot at home or your town office, you’ll see a list of candidates running for US House of Representatives and US Senate and will simply select your first, second, third choices, and so on. You will have the option to rank as many candidates as you wish, or as few as one — it’s up to you! That’s it! Ballot layout and sample ballot are expected to be ready by early September. For an example of an RCV ballot, click here to see the 2011 ballot in the Portland mayoral race.
How are the votes tabulated in an RCV election?
To win a ranked choice election, a candidate must receive at least a majority of total votes counted. A majority is 50% of the total, plus one vote.
After all the votes are in, counters will tally first-choice votes. If no candidate wins a majority based on first-choice votes, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and if that candidate was your first choice, your vote will count for your second choice candidate. This process is repeated until only two candidates are left. Then, the one with the most votes wins.
Why should I rank my vote?
While you are free to vote only for your first choice candidate, we encourage voters to rank the full range of candidates. If you vote only for your first choice candidate, your vote will count for that candidate as long as he/she has not been eliminated. But if your top candidate is eliminated, your ballot will not be counted in later rounds. Ballots like that are called “exhausted ballots.” Additionally, if you rank your first choice candidate in every position, your vote will count only once for that candidate, so it doesn’t help your candidate’s chances of winning.
To make sure your preference is fully expressed and that your preferences matter to the final outcome, you should rank as many candidates as you know or have an opinion about.