Making Democracy Work

Ranked Choice Voting

BREAKING NEWS: Maine Republican Party files federal lawsuit to stop ranked-choice voting in June primary, as reported in the Portland Press Herald, May 4, 2018

What's Happening Right Now

On May 4, 2018, the Maine GOP filed a last-minute federal lawsuit to prevent ranked choice voting from being used in the Republican primary elections on June 12, 2018. Here's the complaint. You can read reporting from the Portland Press Herald.

The League believes that the state has a strong interest in the integrity, consistency, and democratic function of elections--even party primaries. Overseas voters have already begun to vote. It is groundless and irresponsible to wait until beyond the last minute to file suit to change the primary system. You can read the League's statement on the suit here.

News You Can Use

On April 24, the Maine Secretary of State published sample ballots for the races were we will have ranked choice voting in the June primary:

  • Republican and Democratic primaries for governor
  • Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District
  • Republican primary for State Representative in District 75 (Turner, Leeds, Livermore).

You can see those sample ballots by following these links: There's more from the Secretary of State at their Resources for Ranked-choice Voting web page.

Read more about our new project, Maine Uses Ranked Choice Voting.

Elections matter. Let's work together to get this right.

Read more about the legislative and legal history.

What We're Doing to Help

The League of Women Voters of Maine is calling for faithful implementation of RCV for the June primaries in 2018 and for allocating any resources that might be needed.

To help the people understand how RCV might work in the upcoming primary elections, the League of Women Voters of Maine commissioned the first public ranked choice poll of Maine's 2018 primaries, paid for by FairVote and the Election Reform Network.

Read League President Jill Ward's op-ed to the Bangor Daily News, February 25, 2018.

Elections matter; let's get to work; let's get this right.

Read more about our new project, Maine Uses Ranked Choice Voting.

The League has issued a set of Guiding Principles for RCV, applying core election standards to upcoming ranked choice voting elections in Maine.

Read the League's April 6 cover letter to the Secretary of State and our comments on the proposed rules for implementing RCV.

Read more about the legislative and legal background.

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.

Why is RCV Considered as an Alternative to our Current System?

Our current voting system, 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