Maine voters will decide in just a few weeks if they want to change the current election system in favor of ranked-choice voting, a system which would ensure candidates are elected with a majority of the vote. 

Also known as instant-runoff voting, transferable vote, or preferential voting, ranked-choice has voters rank the candidates in order of preference. Ballots are counted for each elector's top choice. If a candidate secures more than half of the votes, that candidate wins. Otherwise, whoever is in last place is eliminated from the race. The remaining candidates move up one slot.  The top choices are counted again. The process repeats until one candidate is the top remaining choice of a majority of the voters.  If the field is down to two, an instant runoff is held.

Advocates say the referendum would pave the way for Mainers to rank candidates from first to last, ensuring that a candidate wins a majority vote while eliminating the impact of so-called spoilers and rejecting party extremists who lack centrist appeal.

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting

Ranked-Choice Voting Maine lists these positives:

  1. Restores Majority Rule. Ranked choice voting ensures that candidates with the most votes and broadest support win, so voters get what they want. Candidates who are opposed by a majority of voters can never win ranked choice voting elections.
  2. Eliminates Vote Splitting. Ranked choice voting gives you the freedom to vote for the candidate you like the best without worrying that you will help to elect the candidate you like the least. You never have to vote for the "lesser of two evils" when there is another candidate you really like.
  3. More Voice for Voters. Your voice matters more with a ranked ballot. You never feel like your vote is “wasted.” If your favorite candidate can't win, your vote counts for the candidate you ranked second.
  4. More Choice for Voters. Ranked choice voting levels the playing field for all candidates and encourages candidates to take their case directly to you with a focus on the issues.
  5. Reduces Incentives for Negative Campaigning. Candidates are encouraged to seek second choice rankings from voters whose favorite candidate is somebody else. You are less likely to rank as your second choice a candidate who has issued personal attacks against your favorite candidate.
  6. More Choice for Voters. Ranked choice voting levels the playing field for all candidates and encourages candidates to take their case directly to you with a focus on the issues.
The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting (Facebook)

Critics says it looks good on paper but may come with problems. Former Secretary of State Bill Diamond says it's complicated and costly — and potentially unconstitutional.

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed ranked-choice in his state last month, calling  is "overly complicated and confusing" and that it "deprives voters of genuinely informed choice." He didn't explain why it would do this.

Mike Cianchette, former Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Paul LePage's, claims the system is unconstitutional because the language of the Maine Constitution provides that winners are determined by a “plurality of all votes returned.” Cianchette says it requires votes be counted by the “election officials of the various towns and cities” and that ranked-choice voting "jettisons pluralities in favor of majorities and entrusts the secretary of state with counting the votes."

The system has been used in several Maine cities for municipal elections. If the referendum is approved next month, Maine would be the first to endorse the system on a statewide basis.