Ranked Choice Voting in Portland, Maine

When Portland passed a charter amendment to switch from an appointed to an elected mayor in 2010, it also decided to elect that mayor with RCV, rather than an expensive and unnecessary primary/runoff system. In 2020, voters opted to expand use of ranked choice voting to the offices of city council and school board, with 80% of voters supporting the change.


In 2011, incumbent Mayor Mike Brennan -- himself a supporter of RCV -- won handily in 2011. However, voters replaced him with challenger Ethan Strimling in 2015 in a three-way race. 

While Strimling won a majority of votes in the first round, the Green Party affiliated candidate was able to run a serious campaign without any fingers pointing to him as a “spoiler.”

Portland voters overwhelmingly support the continued use of RCV. In 2011, FairVote staff observed the election and conducted an informal exit survey conducted by FairVote at one of the city’s highest turnout precincts revealed that more than nine in ten voters describe ranking candidates as “easy,” 84% of voters ranked at least two candidates, and 91% of voters with an opinion said they support keeping RCV in Portland. On Election Day, 2016, Portland voters overwhelmingly voted to expand the system statewide, with 71.5% of Portland voters voting yes on Question 5. Four years later, 80% of Portland voters voted to expand municipal use of RCV.

FairVote staff members Drew Spencer Penrose and Elizabeth Hudler spoke with Mayor Mike Brennan in the summer of 2013. He described how the use of ranked choice voting made his and the other candidates' campaigns more positive and inclusive, while giving every voter a stake in the outcome.

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