Ranked Choice Voting Stands In Maine

Created: 12 June, 2018
Updated: 17 October, 2022
4 min read

It's been a long, bumpy road for ranked choice advocates in Maine. State politicians have pulled out all the stops to overturn the voter-approved election reform, but Maine voters sent them a strong message Tuesday: Respect our vote.

Voters used RCV to select party nominees in the Republican and Democratic primaries, and all voted on Question 1: the people's veto to overturn a bill passed by state policymakers to delay and repeal RCV.

It was early in the hours of Wednesday morning when the fate of Question 1 was clear: ranked choice voting was going to survive. RCV is the law of the land and will be used in the general elections for US House and US Senate in November.

Due to conflicts with a plurality clause in the state constitution, ranked choice voting cannot be used in the general elections for governor and state legislature unless the constitution is amended.

It seems like the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting has not left the campaign trail since they were collecting signatures for the original 2016 campaign. They collected over 70,000 signatures to get ranked choice voting on the November 2016 ballot.

In 2016, Maine became the first state in the country to approve ranked choice voting for state, US House, and US Senate elections.

Then in the following year, many state lawmakers moved to repeal the law completely after the Maine Supreme Court issued a non-binding opinion that the RCV law was in conflict with a clause in the state constitution that allows state general elections to be decided by plurality.

Advocates made thousands of calls, wrote letters to the editor, packed committee hearings, and made office visits to state lawmakers to persuade them not to kill the reform that still could apply to all primary elections and US House and Senate general elections.

The partisan battle between the Democrats in the State House and Republicans in the State Senate made for a rollercoaster of a ride. But in October, during a special session, lawmakers passed a bill that delayed ranked choice voting and set it up for repeal in December 2021 if the constitution was not amended.

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Once again, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting was back on the campaign trail. This time to collect petition signatures for a people's veto to overturn the law. The group was successful, with over 1,100 volunteers braving blistering cold temperatures to collect over 61,000 signatures.

By collecting enough signatures, the people's veto was placed on the June 12 primary ballots and ranked choice voting would be used in the primary elections.

The path to getting ranked choice voting on the primary ballots was still not easy for advocates. They faced and will likely continue to face legal challenges, but the Maine Supreme Court upheld RCV's use in the primaries back in April. Maine voters would get to make history.

Maine being the first state to use ranked choice voting for state and non-presidential federal elections drew broad attention. Suddenly, more people were interested in a voting reform that was actually conceived of by an American, but is most commonly known for its uses in countries like Australia.

RELATED: The Myths, The Facts, The Future: Everything You Need to Know About Ranked Choice Voting

Up until June 12, ranked choice voting had only been used for municipal elections in a dozen cities in the US -- with more cities set to implement it in future elections. Maine blazed a trail for state and federal elections that other states could follow.

So, just by casting a ballot, each Maine voter made history Tuesday. It didn't even matter if the ranked choice referendum passed. Though approving Question 1 was even more significant because not only did it protect ranked choice voting, but the ballot initiative process itself.

The whole insane ride that ranked choice voting went through to be used on Maine ballots started with state politicians showing absolutely no respect for the powers guaranteed to voters by the state constitution to approve legislation at the ballot box.

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Voters have had to fight establishment politicians tooth and nail for their rights in Maine, and they made it clear Tuesday that they were not backing down.

Now, Maine voters will get to use ranked choice voting again in the November elections for US House and US Senate. This is likely to have a major impact on how candidates campaign -- broadening their message for now coveted second and even third choices of voters.

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