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Maine voter’s guide to ranked-choice voting

By Nathan Deveney, freelance contributor

Maine is now approaching its fourth election using ranked choice voting (RCV) for its elections to federal offices. While 82% of Mainers say that they find RCV easy to understand, it doesn’t change the fact that if you are used to other voting systems you might need an explanation of how this system works.

At least 50 jurisdictions have adopted this system in the United States according to the Congressional Research Service.

Here in Maine, our RCV is done using an instant run-off, meaning that we knock out candidates until we have a candidate with a majority of the vote. Here’s how it works: if there is no candidate with a majority of the vote in the first round, then a new round is started removing the candidate with the least votes from the ballot. If your first choice was the candidate who was removed from the ballot then in the next round your ballot will count for your second choice candidate. These knockout rounds continue until a candidate receives 50% +1 of the vote.

Let’s use a Maine sample ballot from the 2020 Presidential Election to more clearly explain:

In 2020 there were a number of third-party candidates running, which makes this election a good one to demonstrate the main goal of RCV, which is to encourage “sincere” voting. Sincere voting is voting for whichever candidate you most align with instead of voting for a party-line candidate to win.

RCV is meant to help combat this by making it so you can vote for a candidate who is unlikely to win and not throw away your vote. For example, if you’re very far left in your political beliefs, you might want to vote for the Green Party candidate, but you also don’t want to throw your vote to someone much more likely to lose in the election. In RCV you can vote for the Green Party more “safely.”

According to the MIT Election Data + Science Lab, RCV in Maine led to a 5-point increase in vote share for non-major party candidates.

RCV was adopted in Maine via a statewide referendum in 2016, making it the first state to adopt the system for federal elections. The initial referendum was for all Maine state-wide elections. However in 2017 the Maine Supreme Court ruled RCV unconstitutional for some Maine elections. So while Mainers have RCV for all federal elections, the offices of State

Senator, State Representative, and Governor are still decided with first past the post elections.

Maine also has same-day registration, which means that even if you have not yet registered to vote, you can still vote. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 51.8% of voting-age citizens went to the polls in the 2018 midterm election, so you should do your part in increasing voter turnout and cast your ballots on Nov. 8.

Where to vote:

Voters registered in Orono will be voting at the New Balance Field House and Memorial Gym. Voters registered in Bangor will be voting at the Cross Insurance Center.

Maine is open to same-day voter registration.

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