Ranked-choice voting to debut in June; state releases video guide

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 8:30pm

With ranked choice voting set to debut in the June 12 primaries after a contentious legislative journey, some critics have expressed concern over potential confusion about the new system.

Whereas in the past voters have been given a single choice between several candidates and a write-in option, ranked choice voting allows voters to rank the candidates by marking candidates as their first, second, third, and so on choice, according to the Maine Department of the Secretary of State (MDSS).

Once all the votes are in, every voter’s first choice vote will be counted, and a winner will be announced should they receive an outright majority, which is over 50 percent.

On the ballot, voters will mark their first-choice candidate in addition to their second and third choice candidates, and so on, according to MDSS.

If there is no outright majority when all the first choice votes are counted, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated.

The votes are then tabulated in subsequent rounds with the recipient of the fewest votes eliminated at the end of each round, until only two candidates remain or one candidate reaches above a 50 percent majority.

If people’s first choice candidates are eliminated, their second, their third, and so on votes will be counted.

Citizens will also vote on a People’s Veto referendum question that asks whether or not they would like to continue using ranked-choice elections in Maine. The types of votes covered include federal offices only, including U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress, and for all state and federal offices in primary elections, according to MDSS.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap hosted two informational sessions on ranked-choice voting in Biddeford May 14, and in Bangor May 15. Two additional sessions are being held, one in Presque Isle, May 21, at 4 p.m. at Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Public Library; the second occurs May 29 at 4 p.m., in the Lewiston Public Library. 

For those interested in the informational session but unable to attend, the presentation will be offered via Facebook LIVE on Thursday, May 24, at 6 p.m. on the Maine Department of Secretary of State Facebook page

Information will be provided on what voters can expect to see at the polls and how the ranked-choice tabulation will be conducted.

Secretary Dunlap will also remind voters of the People’s Veto referendum, which will be presented on a separate ballot on June 12. 

Several samples of the June ballot has been released by MDSS, which features a list of candidate names listed in one column, and number choices in a separate column. Voters simply color in the respective bubble where the candidate’s name and the voters rank intersect.

The exact wording of the ranked-choice voting People’s Veto referendum question that will appear on the ballot is:

“Do you want to reject the parts of a new law that would delay the use of ranked-choice voting in the election of candidates for any state or federal office until 2022, and then retain the method only if the constitution is amended by December 1, 2021, to allow ranked-choice voting for candidates in state elections?”

Voters must vote in the affirmative to uphold the People’s Veto referendum, which rejects an attempt by the Legislature to delay and potentially repeal ranked-choice voting. 

Ranked choice voting was approved by a majority of Maine residents in November 2016, although the Legislature tried to delay its enactment until after Dec. 1, 2021, with a provision that it would be repealed unless by that date a Constitutional amendment allowing it to be used in all states has been approved.

The decision made by the majority of voters was overturned by the Maine Legislature in October 2017, after members voted to repeal the people’s ranked-choice voting law during a “special late-night” session, according to the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting (RVC).

The law attempting to delay implementation of ranked-choice voting was suspended before it could go into effect by the filing of a valid people’s veto in February 2018, with more than 80,000 signatures gathered in just 88 days. The referendum vote was the second largest ever by citizens of Maine, and it was enacted as law.

Erica Thoms can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com