MAINE - Republican US Rep. Bruce Poliquin says that if ranked choice voting was not in place, his race would be over with him leading Democrat Jared Golden 46.2% to 45.5% — less than 2,000 votes separating the two candidates.
It is true that Maine is the only state in the nation to use ranked choice voting in US House elections. There are, however, a dozen of cities that use it for local elections, including Portland, Maine.
Maine made history in 2018 when it used the alternative voting method for the first time in all statewide, legislative, and non-presidential primary elections, and then for US House and Senate general elections.
However, it is important to clarify something about what Poliquin’s Facebook post says about voters getting multiple votes. Even though the post adds “through the reallocation of their vote,” that kind of description raises a lot of misconceptions about how ranked choice voting works.
People don’t vote in a manner akin to choose-one. It’s not the traditional system, so one cannot view it through the lens of a traditional system.
People rank their choices in order of preference. A round of ballot tabulation is conducted, and if no candidate gets over 50% of first choice selections, the election moves on to a second round. The last place candidate is eliminated, and the second preferences of their voters get dispersed among the remaining candidates.
The process is repeated until a candidate gets over 50% of the vote.
In the end, though, people only have a single transferable vote. Ranked choice voting is designed to reflect how voters would make their final selection if the state held an additional runoff election without the expense to taxpayers and requiring voters to go back to the ballot box.
Poliquin appears to favor minority rule in elections over a system that ensures a candidate is only declared the winner if they have majority support from voters. And this could mean any system that would require a runoff, because traditional runoffs allow voters to cast a second ballot for one of the two major party candidates, who they may not have voted for the first time.
The second round of ranked choice tabulation has begun in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, where Poliquin is defending his seat. It will be the first US House race in history to be decided by ranked choice voting.
At least one exit poll shows Poliquin potentially losing the race after one or both independent candidates are eliminated in the automatic runoffs. Whether the vote reflects this in the final round of tabulation remains to be seen.
Whoever wins, however, will be the candidate who has the broadest support among voters who wanted to vote their conscience for one of the independent candidates without also feeling like they were throwing their vote away.
Photo Source: AP