With 94 percent of precincts reporting, former Maine state legislator Dale Crafts has emerged with a large lead in the GOP’s July 14 ranked choice voting (RCV) primary in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. His margin of victory—45.02 percent first choice support to realtor Adrienne Bennett’s 32.19 percent support to former U.S. Senate candidate Eric Brakey’s 22.79 percent support—almost perfectly mirrors recent FairVote polling in the race.
In FairVote’s ranked choice poll, conducted in conjunction with SurveyUSA and released July 8, Crafts led Bennett and Brakey by a 46 to 31 to 23 percent margin, respectively. In the poll, once Brakey first-choice supporters had their preferences distributed among their second-choices, Crafts emerged with a clear majority, 59.03 percent to Bennett’s 40.97 percent.
Because Brakey and Bennett conceded the race, the result of the ‘instant runoff’ results of the ranked choice process are unlikely to change the outcome. Nonetheless, the Crafts campaign had prepared for such a scenario—even going so far as to allude to the recent FairVote RCV poll in touting his second-choice support.
“We really felt, if we just won tonight, even if it was a little bit, we'd win with ranked-choice voting,” Crafts told Maine Public Radio. “Now that we're way up on them, we feel like it's pretty much over.”
Indeed, the recent FairVote poll accurately captured Crafts’ broad support among Maine Republicans in the district, indicating that he would handily win hypothetical head-to-head matchups against both Bennett and Brakey.
Ranked choice voting, by ensuring Crafts was nominated with majority support among his party, has allowed the Maine GOP to emerge united against incumbent Jared Golden in the hotly-contested district. In fact, in 2018, Maine’s CD-2 became the first congressional race in U.S. history to decide its winner via RCV. That year, despite incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin receiving a plurality of first-choice support, Democrat Jared Golden achieved majority support in the third round of balloting.
Crafts is short of 50%, triggering ranked choice voting tally, but both opponents have conceded. @fairvote poll nailed the outcome & projected Crafts to grow his lead in instant runoff. RCV likely increases polling accuracy as voters more likely to keep voting their true views. https://t.co/K2iTFK9y8q— Rob Richie (@Rob_Richie) July 15, 2020
On a broader level, not only did FairVote’s polling depict the state of the race with pinpoint accuracy, but it also illustrated the benefit of conducting ranked choice polling in crowded primaries. In such primaries, ranked polling often reveals breadth of support for certain candidates, which can help a party decide on a “consensus nominee”—or a candidate supported by a majority of a given electorate. Given these benefits, using ranked choice voting for elections and polling is a no-brainer—and we expect to see use of the method expand in the future.
Here’s FairVote’s updated projections for what to expect in the next round as of 7/16, based on the first round results and our polling data:
In the final tally of the actual race, Crafts bested Bennett 57.99 percent to 42.01 percent.