Posted by Adam Ginsburg on September 06, 2019 at 7:41 PM

September 6, 2019

Gov. Janet Mills accepts historic bill extending Maine’s RCV system to general election for president and future presidential primaries

Augusta, Maine-- Maine’s position as the nation’s leader on ranked choice voting (RCV) was cemented today, after Maine governor Janet Mills announced that she would allow a bill to become law to make Maine the first state to use ranked choice voting to decide Electoral College votes in the general presidential election in 2020. RCV will be allowed for presidential primaries starting in 2024.

The bill establishes an “instant runoff” for the Electoral College, where backup votes for weaker candidates go to the next ranked choice in the event that no candidate earns a majority of the vote. In Maine this means a ranked choice vote to determine an electoral vote in Maine’s two congressional districts and two electoral votes going to the RCV winner statewide. 

“Ranked choice voting for president in Maine is an historic first,” said FairVote president and CEO Rob Richie. “Swing states like Maine effectively decide the presidency, and the White House should not be decided by a ‘spoiler.’ Now Mainers have the option to vote freely for an independent or third party presidential candidate that best speaks to them and still indicate a backup choice between the major party candidates.”

Had Gov. Mills signed LD 1083, it would have led to the bill becoming law immediately and to ranked choice ballots being used in its March 2020 presidential primaries. Starting in 2024, presidential primary ballots will also offer ranked choice voting. If LD 1083 had become law in time to be used in the Democratic presidential primary in March 2020, for example, voters would have had the option to indicate a backup choice if their first choice had fallen short of the 15% level of support needed to earn delegates under Democratic Party rules.

Ranked choice voting has tremendous momentum nationwide. This major advance for RCV in Maine comes as six state Democratic parties still plan to have voters cast RCV ballots in their delegate selection process for 2020. Iowa and Nevada are traditional caucus states where voters’ “backup choices” already will carry weight, meaning voters there get to go to a backup choice if their first choice can’t win delegates. That’s why both states are working on plans to have early voters cast ranked choice voting ballots and why four other caucus states are looking to have all their voters use ranked choice voting in the Democratic presidential primaries.

Gov Mills issued a statement today explaining her acceptance of the bill, saying that “My experience with ranked-choice voting is that it gives voters a greater voice and it encourages civility among campaigns and candidates at a time when such civility is sorely needed.”

Ranked choice voting was first adopted by Maine voters in 2016 and affirmed in a second vote in June 2018. In 2018, RCV was used for all state and congressional primaries and general elections to U.S. Senate and U.S. House. In those elections, voter turnout surpassed projections, and voters easily adapted to their new system with high, effective use of rankings. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, the Maine advocacy group that led the 2016 and 2018 ballot measure wins, focused its efforts on the presidential legislation this year. 

“This is a tremendous victory for our democracy,” says Richie. “We congratulate Cara McCormick and the whole Committee for Ranked Choice Voting team, along with groups like the League of Women Voters of Maine and grassroots supporters across the state. Gov. Mills, state senate president and LD 1083 sponsor Troy Jackson and the state legislature deserve great credit for this historic new law to set what promises to become a national standard.”

Reformers’ success in Maine set the foundation for extending RCV for presidential elections. Hillary Clinton won Maine in 2016, but with a 47.8 percent plurality. Her 22,000-vote margin over Donald Trump was less than the 38,100 votes won by Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. If LD 1083 had been in place in 2016, RCV would have resulted in votes for third party and independent candidates helping to decide the final outcome.


FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.

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