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The Maine State House in Augusta, Maine, as it appeared in 2004.
The Maine State House in Augusta, Maine, as it appeared in 2004. | Wikipedia

Ranked-choice voting in Maine could delay the election results

In 2016, the residents of Maine voted to implement ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting. Under this system, a candidate is required to receive a majority of the vote in order to win an election, as opposed to most other states, where merely receiving a plurality is enough to win an election.

The 2020 presidential election will be the first time that ranked-choice voting will be conducted in a presidential election.

Under ranked-choice voting, voters rank all of the candidates on the ballot in order of preference. For example, should a voter select a third-party candidate who receives the fewest number of votes in the first round of voting as their first choice, their vote would then be transferred to their second choice, which is one of the two major-party candidates.

Should one of the candidates receive a majority of the votes on the first ballot, subsequent tabulations are no longer needed. According to the Associated Press, “If no one wins a majority of first-place votes, then there are additional tabulations, aided by computers, in which last-place finishers are eliminated and votes reallocated based on those supporters’ second-place choices. Transporting the ballots to Augusta for additional tabulations delays the results for about a week.”

In addition to being the only state to conduct its elections using ranked-choice voting, Maine is one of only two states that allocates its electoral votes based on the winners of each congressional district. Two of Maine’s electoral votes are awarded to the winner of the statewide vote while the remaining two electoral votes are awarded to the winners of each of the state’s two congressional districts. This makes it possible for a candidate to receive an electoral vote from the state despite losing the statewide vote.

In 2016, Trump won Maine’s 2nd Congressional District by a margin of slightly more than 10%. However, he only received 51% of the vote there, as third-party candidates picked up a sizable amount of support. In a close national election, the result could come down to this single electoral vote.

In 2018, ranked-choice voting went into effect for the congressional race in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Incumbent Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin won a plurality of the vote on the first ballot but by the time the third-party candidates were eliminated in ranked-choice voting, his Democratic challenger, Jared Golden, had obtained a majority of the vote, thereby winning the election.

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