Maine Is First State to Consider Ranked-Choice Voting

The change would prevent candidates winning political office with less than 50 percent support.


Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.

A couple of months ago, I wrote here that the United States should consider switching to an instant-runoff voting system. It would break the Democratic-Republican duopoly and perhaps help rehabilitate the compromises and horse-trading that make politics work.

A few cities, including Minneapolis and San Francisco, already use such a system in their local elections.

Now a state is pioneering reform.

Ballot measure

On election day next month, voters in Maine will be asked to approve ranked-choice voting.

If the ballot measure (similar to a referendum) passes, voters in America’s northernmost state would in the future rank-order candidates for political office rather than pick one. If no candidate is the first choice of a majority of voters, his or her least popular opponent would be eliminated and their second-choice votes counted instead. And so forth until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the votes.

That could mean everybody’s second choice wins in the end, but that’s surely better than having the last choice of a majority of voters prevail?

Three-way split

That happened in the Republican presidential primaries this year. Donald Trump never got above 50 percent support but won because the opposition against him was divided.

Maine has experienced something similar. In its two most recent gubernatorial elections, the Republican, Paul LePage — a populist and nationalist in the Trump mold — eked out victories with 37.6 and 48.2 percent support, respectively, because the rest of the electorate split its votes between the Democrat and independent Eliot Cutler.

If Maine had had ranked-choice voting in 2010 and 2014, LePage — who is one of the least popular governors in the country with a 38-percent approval rating — would never have won.

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