Maine chooses ranked-choice voting

June 18, 2018

“Mainers” (or as they call themselves, Maineiacs) passed a referendum on June 12, by a margin of 54.3% TO 45.7%  to keep the state’s ranked-choice voting system in place—overriding the legislature’s attempt to block the ballot initiative, Mic reported.

What exactly is a ranked-choice system? The program enables voters statewide to rank their preferences for candidates—from first to last—on the ballot. Using that practice, If there’s no majority vote (of at least 50%) for a candidate, then the last-place candidate is eliminated and votes reallocated. The process then is repeated until there is a majority winner.

Indeed, Ranked-choice voting gained popularity in Maine because of the electorate’s penchant for voting for such Independent candidates as Bernie Sanders. Often, Independent candidates can splinter the vote between the three (or more) parties and allow “spoiler” candidates to win.

That spoiler effect is partly how the state elected current GOP Governor Paul LePage, whom Politico has dubbed “America’s craziest governor.” During his time in office, Mic reports, LePage has made a number of comments—“ranging from bizarre to racist,” including saying that polar ice cap melting has actually made things better for shipping companies, and that he wanted to blow up the offices of one of the state’s largest newspapers.

To date, the voting system has been used in 11 local jurisdictions and was used for the first time in a U.S. statewide primary on June 12.

But it has plenty of critics “I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that there will be at least one lawsuit. I’ll take that bet,” University of Maine Political Science Professor Mark Brewer told U.S. News & World Report this week.

The new system already is affecting some races: Republican businessman Shawn Moody was a majority winner in the June 12 vote, however no one came close to getting an outright majority to claim victory in the seven-candidate Democratic gubernatorial primary, U.S. news said. That means more ballots will be shipped to Augusta, Maine, for addition tabulations next week under the state’s ranked-choice voting system.

The city of Portland, Maine, and other municipalities around the country have been using ranked-choice voting in local elections for several years.

Research contact: @CahnEmily

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