Making Democracy Work

Ranked Choice Voting

How Does Ranked Choice Voting Work?

Ranked choice voting lets voters rank their choices based on individual preference. 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. Voters that picked the eliminated candidate as their first choice have their vote counted for their next choice. In a three-person race, we now have a winner with majority support in the final round of tabulation. In a race with more than three candidates, this process is repeated until one candidate has a majority. Read more about it in RCV Basics.

Ranked Choice Voting Sample Ballot for Maine

Watch this cool video that shows how RCV works.

News from Maine

In the November 6 general election, we were the first state in the country to use ranked choice voting to elect these offices:

U.S. Senate
U.S. Congress District 1 and District 2

The races for U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress in District 1 were won by outright majority on the first round.

The race for U.S. Congress in District 2 went through an RCV count. Here's official information from the Secretary of State. We DID NOT use ranked choice voting to elect these offices:

Governor of Maine
Maine State Senate
Maine State House of Representatives
District Attorney, County Commissioner and other offices

Find more information about ranked choice voting from the Maine Secretary of State

Read more about the legislative and legal history.

Next Steps

Find more information about our efforts to expand RCV in Maine at our Take Action page.

Read Our Legislative Testimony on This and Other Priority Issues

Why is RCV Considered as an Alternative to a Plurality System?

First-past-the-post, or plurality voting, works well when there are only two candidates because one of them is guaranteed to win with majority support. But three and four-way races among competitive candidates are common in Maine and can lead to results where the winner fails to receive a majority of the votes cast (50% + 1). Dating back to 1974, the winner has failed to receive a majority vote in 9 of the last 11 gubernatorial elections in Maine. In 5 of those races, the elections were won with less than 40 percent support. Given the frequency with which this was happening in Maine elections, the League of Women Voters of Maine convened a study in 2008 to consider alternative voting systems. That study concluded in 2011 with an endorsement of ranked choice voting as the best way to ensure a majority vote in competitive, single-seat, multi-candidate elections.

What are the Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting?

✓ Gives voters more meaningful choices: Ranked choice voting allows candidates from outside the two major parties to compete. It helps create a richer dialogue on the issues and increases the diversity of views available for voters to consider.

✓ Eliminates spoilers and strategic voting: Ranked choice voting allows voters to support their favorite candidate without worrying that they might "throw their vote away," or worse, split their votes with like‐minded voters and unintentionally help elect the candidate they like the least.

✓ Reduces negative campaigning: Candidates running in ranked choice elections must ask for second and, sometimes, third choice rankings. Voters are less likely to rank a candidate highly who is negative toward their preferred candidate.

✓ Reduces the influence of money in politics: Campaigns and special interest groups spend a lot of money on negative advertising. By making negative advertising less effective, ranked choice voting reduces the need for, and influence of, money in politics.

Where is RCV being Used?

✓ More than 50 colleges and universities use ranked choice voting for some or all of their student government elections.

✓ 11 cities across the United States currently use ranked choice voting to elect city officers, including Portland, Maine. Also San Francisco, Cambridge, and Minneapolis.

✓ 5 states provide military and overseas voters with ranked choice ballots to participate in federal runoff elections.

✓ 4 countries, including Australia, Ireland, Malta, and New Zealand, use ranked choice voting in federal elections.

✓ Numerous public and private sector organizations, including the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science, use ranked choice voting for their elections.

Read more about who uses RCV.

Additional Information