Voices & Choices

Maine Democrats use ranked choice voting to select Secretary of State

Maine Democrats use ranked choice voting to select Secretary of State

Last month, former State Senator Shenna Bellows was sworn into office as the first woman to hold the position of Maine Secretary of State. It was also the first time Ranked Choice Voting was used in the selection process.

Term limit laws prevented incumbent Matt Dunlap from seeking a 5th consecutive term. There was a total of 6 candidates competing for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State, with a mixture of current, former, and outgoing lawmakers in the running.

Maine is one of just a handful of states where the legislature selects the Secretary of State rather than through a public election.

With Democrats retaining control of the House and the Senate, whoever was nominated by the internal Democratic caucus gathering, would likely be elected when the full legislature met to formally install state constitutional officers.

Like with any caucus nomination, the previous voting system used was through a lengthy process of elimination, where members would have to manually vote for their preferred candidate, on a new ballot for each round, until a majority was reached. Unlike Ranked Choice Voting, where you have one ballot and rank in order of preference.

With 6 candidates, the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses debated and voted to use RCV to simplify and speed up the process. This was the first time Ranked Choice Voting was used for Secretary of State.

With no candidate receiving over 50%, there was a total of 5 rounds before a winner was announced. The race came down to a final round of Bellows and State Rep. Erik Jorgensen, where Bellows was ultimately selected.

This past November, Maine voters also became the first in the nation to use ranked-choice voting in the U.S. presidential election after a bill in the legislature became law. Twice, Maine voters have voted to approve and defend the use of Ranked Choice Voting in their elections.


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