The organizers of an effort to bring ranked choice voting to Maine say they have pulled within striking distance of their goal to force a statewide referendum on the issue with only a month left until the deadline to put the question on the 2015 ballot. Former independent Sen. Richard Woodbury, principal officer for the Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting, said Wednesday his group has collected more than 45,000 signatures and aims to handily eclipse 61,000 signatures by Jan. 7. The deadline for the group to submit signatures to municipalities for certification is Jan. 12. In ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference, in essence voting for more than one candidate. If none of the candidates receive a majority of the initial vote total — at least 50 percent — the lowest performing candidate is eliminated. The ballots with that candidate listed as a first preference are recounted with the second-choice votes tallied and third choice, if necessary, until one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.
Normally, petition drives in Maine take months, but the ranked choice voting initiative, which was launched in late October, when the petition forms were released by the secretary of state’s office, collected more than 36,000 signatures on Election Day alone.
Woodbury, who opted not to run for re-election this year, said the group is using volunteer and paid signature gatherers. “We’re starting to fundraise, and basically enough funding is coming in on a weekly basis to support our costs on a weekly basis,” he said. “It’s very much grassroots donations at this point.”
Proponents of ranked choice voting say it allows voters to list their preferences, casting their top-line vote for the candidate of their choice without having to worry about being a strategic voter.