Mainers supported ranked-choice voting for the second time in two years with the passage of a people’s veto on Tuesday, making the state the first in modern times to overhaul its system for choosing candidates. Supporters of Question 1 held a big lead statewide as of 10:15 a.m. Wednesday morning, according to unofficial results from the Associated Press. With 77 percent of precincts reporting, the measure to proceed with ranked-choice voting had a total of 127,048 yes votes, and 106,607 no votes, results showed. The race was called early Wednesday morning. Maine voters first approved ranked-choice voting by referendum in November 2016, but the law was mired in legal challenges for nearly a year. The Republican-led Legislature passed a bill in October 2017 that sought to delay implementation, and supporters then responded by gathering enough signatures to force a people’s veto. That’s what was on the ballot Tuesday.
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 then have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots are retabulated. That process continues until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the votes.
In a strange set of circumstances, Mainers got to vote on ranked-choice voting’s future while simultaneously testing it in the Republican gubernatorial primary, which featured four candidates; the Democratic gubernatorial primary, which featured seven; the three-way Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District; and a three-way Republican primary in Maine House District 75.
None of those races was likely to be decided Tuesday and the Secretary of State’s Office has said it could be next week before final votes are counted.