AUGUSTA, MAINE - Tens of thousands of voters have already voted in the Maine elections, and state officials expect higher-than-normal turnout for the 2018 midterms Tuesday. The midterm surge comes during the historic use of ranked choice voting for US House and Senate races.
Maine has for years set itself apart from the rest of the nation for high turnout. Nearly 73% of eligible voters participated in the 2016 presidential election. Not very many states can boast such high numbers. Interesting, though, it came in second to only one state: Minnesota.
The reason Maine sees such a high volume of voter participation is largely credited to how easy and convenient they make access to the ballot for voters. The state doesn't leave voters with much of an excuse not to vote: Same-day voter registration, motor voter, early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, no shortage of polling places.
The 2018 election, though, is special. It is the first general election in US history ranked choice voting will be used in US House and Senate general election. It's a system that historically has lead to a rise in voter participation, and it completely transforms the dynamics of a race.
Higher turnout in a ranked choice election means that multi-candidate races become even more interesting, and some research suggests it will mean much greater representation for constituents. The higher the turnout, the better quality the representation.
"The combined effect of ranked choice voting giving voters more power, and rewarding candidates who reach out to more voters is starting to pay off . Maine's high turnout is just the latest in a string of higher-than-projected turnout in ranked choice voting elections in the past year in 10 cities and Maine's primaries," says Rob Richie, President and CEO of FairVote.
FairVote, on top of being the largest advocacy group for ranked choice voting, has published and shared extensive research on the alternative voting method. Richie added:
"I'm particularly pleased to see signs of higher turnout in RCV elections among young people and independents. With RCV they have more reason to vote, which is essential if we hope to return to being one the world's high turnout democracies."
Ranked choice voting is in use for US House and US Senate races in the general election. All of these races are multi-candidate races:
- In Congressional District 1, incumbent Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree is defending her seat against Republican Mark Holbrook and independent Maine House Rep. Martin Grohman;
- In Congressional District 2, incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin is defending his seat against Democrat Jared Golden and independent candidates Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar; and
- Independent US Senator Angus King is also defending his Senate seat against Republican Eric Brakey and Democrat Zak Ringlestein.
Under the old choose-one voting method, these elections could have -- and likely would have -- been decided by by less than a majority of voters. Ranked choice voting ensures the winner of each election will have over 50% of the vote by the time the process is complete.
Stay tuned for further coverage on the impact ranked choice voting had on the 2018 midterms.