Maine Voters Will Decide in June About Ranked-Choice Voting

On June 12, Maine will become the first state to let residents rank their voting choices in their primary election choices for U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representatives.  The June 12th election will also allow a “people’s veto” of sorts that would overrule previous state legislation and permit ranked-choice voting again in the November 2018 general election. Ranked-choice voting is a process in which voters would rank candidates in order of preference, if no one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would then have their ballots added to the totals of their next-ranked candidates and the votes would be recounted. This process would continue until one candidate has a clear majority.

In November 2016, fifty-two percent of the Maine electorate voted to pass a law permitting ranked-choice voting for all voting done in Maine. After this vote, the Maine state legislature passed a law delaying the effective date until December of 2021 and then repealing the ranked-choice voting process completely if a constitutional amendment has not been passed by then.

In May 2017, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued a unanimous advisory opinion suggesting that the parts of the November 2016 law applicable to election of state officials was unconstitutional because the Maine Constitution requires a plurality of votes. Despite the new state legislation and state supreme court opinion, the people of Maine were able to garner 66,687 valid signatures on a petition to restore ranked-choice voting; 61,123 signatures were required.