After years of petitions, court decisions, and appeals, Mainers will finally experience the state law that was approved in 2016 which expanded ranked-choice voting to presidential elections. Maine’s highest court cleared the way for the ranked-choice format in the upcoming General Election after the Maine Republican Party’s “People’s Veto” failed to make the ballot.
So, what is ranked-choice voting, and how does the process work?
Voters rank candidates in order of preference, and no winner is declared until one candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote. RCV is only applied when there are three or more candidates running for the same office.
In the General Election on Nov. 3, the U.S. Senate race features four candidates—Sara Gideon (D), Susan Collins (R), Lisa Savage (I), and Max Linn (I)—so voters will choose their candidates in order of preference by marking candidates as their first, second, third, and subsequent choices.
The votes are tabulated in rounds, with the lowest-ranked candidates eliminated in each round until there are only two candidates left. The candidate who is determined to have received the majority of the votes (more than 50 percent) in the final round is declared the winner.
RCV is different from Maine’s previous method of voting, in which voters choose only one candidate for each office and the winner is determined by a plurality (whoever gets the most votes).
The same will go for the presidential race, where in addition to the Democratic and Republican candidates (Joe Biden and Donald Trump), three other candidates will be on the ballot: Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian), Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente (Alliance Party), and Howard Hawkins (Green Party).
If no candidate wins a majority of votes on Election Night in the races that have three or more candidates, the ballots and memory devices from each municipality are securely transported to a central tabulation site in Augusta. There, the winner is determined via rounds.