The year 2016 may be the last time Maine’s federal and state candidates can win with less than half of the popular vote. A non-partisan grassroots committee has amassed over 75,000 signatures to put ranked choice voting on next year’s referendum ballot. Ranked choice voting is a method of ensuring the winner receives a majority of the votes. Instead of voting only for their preferred candidate, voters rank them in order of preference. If the leading candidate receives less than a majority, the candidate who received the fewest votes has his or her votes redistributed to the remaining candidates. A winner is declared after a candidate receives more than half of the votes. Maine would be the first to adopt the measure on a statewide basis. Ranked Choice Voting Maine began working on placing the measure on the ballot in 2014.
Ranked choice voting was first used in Maine during the 2011 Portland mayoral election. The method is used in 11 other U.S cities in mayoral elections, as well as in most Australian elections, and for a century in Canadian and Great Britain parliamentary leadership elections.
Supporters like former State Sen. Richard Woodbury (U-Yarmouth) said it will make elections less divisive and more policy oriented. And detractors like former Maine Senate President Rick Bennett (R-Norway) said political campaigns by nature are combative, and ranked choice voting wouldn’t improve the process.