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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 7, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, June 7, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, June 7, 2018
Ranked-choice voting to be used in June primary

Election 2018 Archive
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Sample ballot

Sample of Maine state Democratic ballot.

Photo courtesy of Maine Secretary of State Office

by Faith DeAmbrose

Maine’s June 12 primary election will mark the first time Ranked-choice Voting (RCV) will be used in a statewide election. The ballot also will include a question—a Citizens’ Veto— that asks voters to affirm their support of the system and override a repeal of the law by the legislature.

Races that employ the system include those that have three or more candidates: the Democratic and Republican nominations for the office of Governor; the Democratic primary for 2nd Congressional District; and one Republican seat in the Maine House (District 75).

With RCV, voters choose their first-choice candidate and rank the remaining candidates in order of preference (i.e. second choice, third choice, etc.). First choices are counted, and if no candidate has a majority of the vote, an “instant runoff” occurs in which the candidate with the least support is eliminated, according to information provided by the League of Women Voters.

Voters who chose the eliminated candidate as their first choice have their vote counted for their next choice. In a race with more than three candidates, this process is repeated until one candidate has a majority.

The implementation of ranked-choice voting has been many years in the making and follows a lengthy legal battle that has existed since the law was passed by voters in 2016.

Ranked-choice voting was first proposed in Maine in 2001; the bill died at the committee level. In 2003 a feasibility study was conducted and it was determined the state did not have the resources to implement the voting method. From 2005 to 2013 a number of RCV bills were proposed but all were rejected by the legislature.

In 2014 and 2015 proponents of RCV circulated a citizens’ petition to bring the law directly to voters. The petition garnered enough signatures for the November 2016 ballot, and ultimately won the favor of voters. Shortly after the election, the Maine Senate challenged the constitutionality of the law and legal challenges continue.

A May 4 filing by the Republican party sought to block implementation in that party’s primary “based on its speculation that a candidate who might win the Republican primary by the RCV method, as opposed to the plurality of the votes, will not be the type of ‘standard bearer’ that the party wants.”

The request was recently denied by a federal Circuit Court judge and as of press time an appeal has not been filed.

The Maine Secretary of State’s office printed ballots earlier this month that utilize RCV for the offices where three or more candidates exist.