On November 8, 2016, voters in Maine passed the Ranked Choice Voting Act into law, establishing that all state and federal elections, both primaries and generals, would be held using ranked choice voting. This made Maine a leader in adopting the reform, and kicked off the incredible momentum for ranked choice voting that we see today.
The path to Maine’s implementation of RCV for its primary elections in 2018 was not easy, but it paid off. Maine voters used the system efficiently, exit polling showed most voters wanted the system to continue or even expand, and shortly thereafter, the Maine legislature voted to expand RCV to Maine’s presidential elections beginning with the general election in 2020.
Today, FairVote releases its report on Maine’s experience with ranked choice voting. The report outlines the history of the movement for reform, with Maine’s frustrating series of major offices being elected with low pluralities. It tells the story of the legal and political struggle to implement RCV. It pulls together FairVote’s unique data on how voters used their ballots in both the primary and general elections, and how they responded to exit polling after the general election. Finally, it describes the pushback following the close contest in Maine’s second congressional district, leading to the system being upheld in federal court and ultimately expanded to presidential elections.
The story of Maine’s successful passage, implementation, and use of ranked choice voting marks a sea change in momentum for the reform. In 2019, New York City voted to join Maine in using the system, and in 2020 we expect at least two states to vote on whether to join them, with efforts underway in both Massachusetts and Alaska. In doing so, this information on Maine’s experience should be instructive.