Maine voters will finally get their chance to try out the hotly debated ranked-choice voting system when they head to the polls to select party nominees for governor, Congress and the Legislature on June 12. While they’re in the voting booth, Mainers will also face Question 1 on their ballots, asking them if they want to keep the first-in-the-nation ranked-choice system in place by rejecting a bill the Legislature passed to repeal it. The road to ranked-choice voting has been a twisting one ever since 52 percent of voters approved the system at the ballot box in November 2016. A series of legal challenges by opponents has been steadily beaten back by ranked-choice advocates, who say the new system will temper the partisan divide and foster the election of candidates from the political center.
Under the ranked-choice system, voters select candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who preferred the eliminated candidate would then have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until one candidate has a clear majority of votes.
The city of Portland and other municipalities around the country have been using ranked-choice voting in municipal elections for several years, but Maine would be the first state in the U.S. to apply the method to elections for statewide or federal office.