Mainers have voted for a radical overhaul of elections, and now there’s much work to be done before the first statewide ranked-choice system is implemented. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said that he’ll be meeting in coming weeks with legislative leaders and ranked-choice voting advocates to start the implementation process. And he’s already worried that the 2018 date in the referendum may be too ambitious. But Kyle Bailey, campaign manager of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, said there’s no wiggle room on the implementation date. “This is not a recommendation or an advisory opinion of the people. This was a statute enacted by the Maine people,” he said. Nationwide, a dozen cities have adopted ranked-choice voting, and Maine voters on Tuesday became the first to endorse the system for statewide elections.
It works like this: Voters rank their top four ballot choices from first to last instead of simply choosing a single candidate. If no candidate wins an outright majority, then the election outcome is determined by additional rounds of tabulations in Augusta. In each round, the last-place candidate would be removed, and votes reallocated, until a candidate receives a majority of the vote.
The system is sometimes called an instant runoff. But it wouldn’t be instant in Maine.
That’s because the ballots would have to be shipped by town clerks to a central location in Augusta for additional voting rounds. Thus the outcome of an election in a multiple-candidate race might not be known for several weeks.