Campus News

A Guide to Ranked Choice Voting

“I voted” stickers in English and Spanish, Virginia, USA, November 2014. (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) photo.), Public Domain, via 90.3 WPLN News

In November 2016, Maine implemented ranked choice voting, straying away from much of the traditional voting methods and analysis that have been used across the nation. Typically, voters go to their local voting centers (or mail in their ballots) and vote by simply selecting whichever single candidate they would prefer to be elected to whichever given position in office is on the ballot. Votes are then tallied and whichever candidate receives the largest percentage of votes is elected (typically). Ranked choice voting, instead of confining voters to only select a single candidate, allows voters to rank all of the candidates on the ballot in order of their own preference, from their first choice to their last choice.

Essentially, this process allows voters to vote for whomever they truly desire to be their first choice without worrying that their vote may be in vain.

Peter J. Yost, Public Domain, 15 January 2020, via Wikimedia Commons

Efforts to implement ranked choice voting on the ballots in Maine date back to 2001; however nothing came of these efforts until election day 2016, when Maine voters approved the referendum to implement ranked choice voting in Maine, becoming the first state in the United States to do so. The idea behind ranked choice voting is to provide voters with a way to support smaller parties and candidates while also allowing for greater bipartisan support. Voters are given the peace of mind that if their first choice of candidate is eliminated, their vote will instead count towards their second preferred candidate rather than being disregarded altogether. Essentially, this process allows voters to vote for whomever they truly desire to be their first choice without worrying that their vote may be in vain. 

Ranked choice voting is used statewide for gubernatorial, state legislative, and Congressional elections. Voters rank each candidate on the ballot in terms of preference, voting for their first choice of candidate, then second, and so on. It is important to note that voters are not required to rank all of the candidates on the ballot. For example, they may want to just select one candidate and rank them first without ranking any others, or just rank two candidates and not rank any others. These ranked choice votes are then tabulated in a series of rounds, with the lowest ranked candidates being eliminated every round until there are just two candidates left, where the winner is decided by whichever candidate received the majority (over 50%) of the votes.

On November 8, 2022, a ranked choice ballot will be used for the third time for a statewide election in Maine history. This election will feature the Maine state gubernatorial race, state legislative candidates, and U.S. congressional candidates for the House of Representatives. To find out where, when, and how to vote, visit this website.

Categories: Campus News, State Politics

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2 replies »

  1. This is well written and clearly lays out the process of ranked choice. As we gather more data on voting it’ll be interesting to compare our percentages of split tickets to other states.


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