Posted by Emily Risch on June 19, 2019 at 10:10 AM

Important update on June 20, 2019:  The Maine state legislature ended its session today without taking the final procedural votes needed to have this legislation go to Governor Janet Mills. The text of our release explained that additional procedural votes were necessary, and those votes did not happen before the close of the session. The legislation still may be taken up in a special session this summer, as the Legislature passed an order that keeps outstanding bills alive for when it returns in August.

Ranked Choice Voting for president likely on way to Maine governor

RCV advances again in the wake of progress in  New York City and presidential caucus states

Maine’s position as the nation’s leader on ranked choice voting was cemented today, after the state house of representatives joined the state senate and voted to establish ranked choice voting (RCV) for all presidential contests.

The bill -- approved today by Maine’s state house by a large majority of 86-59 -- would enact RCV for both Maine’s March 2020 presidential primary as well as the general election in November 2020. After final action of the legislature that is expected today, the bill is expected to go to Maine governor Janet Mills for her signature.

“Ranked choice voting for president in Maine is a big deal,” said Rob Richie, the president and CEO of FairVote. “It represents an historic first.”

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 for 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.

That success 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, Richie noted. “In 2016, it would have resulted in votes for third party and independent candidates helping to decide the final outcome,” he said.

Under RCV, in November 2020, a similar result statewide or in either of Maine’s congressional districts would trigger an “instant runoff.” Maine is one of two states that allocates two electors to the statewide winner and one elector to the winner of each congressional district.

It will make a significant impact with a large Democratic field in 2020 as well. “The Democratic presidential primary in March 2020 is sure to have many candidates running. RCV will ensure far more votes count toward candidates earning delegates.”

RCV has tremendous momentum nationwide. Last week, a New York City charter commission voted 13-1 to put RCV on the November ballot for future primary and special elections. This November, at least five cities will use RCV for the first time in Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico and Utah. Next spring, as many as six state Democratic parties plan to use RCV for all or part of their 2020 caucuses or primaries being run by their party.

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. The legislation received strong public support in a March 2019 hearing and ultimately passed with strong support in both chambers. Other civic groups like the League of Women Voters of Maine also supported the legislation.

“This is a tremendous victory for our democracy,” says Richie. “We congratulate Kyle Bailey, Cara McCormick and the whole Committee for Ranked Choice Voting team and grassroots supporters.”

FairVote has worked on ranked choice voting for the last 27 years, including past working Maine. It is a nonpartisan electoral reform organization.

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