Maine residents are casting their votes in Tuesday’s primary elections using “ranked-choice voting,” a system which has never been used in statewide U.S. elections until now.
Ranked-choice voting means that voters rank the candidates based on preference rather than voting for one candidate. If one candidate is the first choice of a majority of voters, that candidate wins the primary. If not, the candidate who receives the least first-choice votes is eliminated. The votes of those who ranked the eliminated candidate first are given to their second choice candidate and the counting resumes until one candidate receives a majority.
Fire and fury has erupted as many voters as well as candidates think the system is not a good one, while others are very happy with the voting method. The new system has faced a number of roadblocks, including multiple lawsuits and repeal by the Republican-controlled state legislature that does not see the vote as a fair way to elect a candidate. Maine’s Senate also filed a complaint in April in an attempt to nix the voting system for the upcoming primaries, but Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled that ranked-choice voting would stand.
“Ranked-choice voting is a scam,” GOP candidate Mary Mayhew said, National Public Radio reported. “It’s going to undermine the integrity of our election process.”
“It becomes more about gamesmanship rather than leadership,” GOP frontrunner Shawn Moody also said, The Washington Post reported.
Democratic underdogs Mark Eves and Betsy Sweet are all for the voting system. The two even created a campaign video encouraging their supporters to vote for either one of them as their first and second choices.
Voters are conflicted about whether they like or dislike the system. “I didn’t particularly like it. I just didn’t feel like I wanted my third and fourth candidates to become governor,” said voter Betty Smart who cast her ballot Tuesday morning, according to WaPo. Voter Virginia Wild Cross liked the new voting system and said, “It was very easy. I think it makes sense.”
Ranked-choice voting is intended to produce less partisan results, but many Republicans think the system seeks to prevent conservatives from winning elections. In theory, candidates will reach out to more potential voters than they might have otherwise done and will be more willing to effectively compromise if elected, given that their electorate will be much larger than a candidate who is traditionally elected.
Critics also argue that ranked-choice voting leads to dull and unfocused campaigns because candidates are afraid of alienating any one sect of voters and that the system causes an increase in ballot errors. (RELATED: Evidence – And Common Sense – Tells Us That Voter Fraud Is Real, Only Voter ID Laws Can Prevent It)
Maine voters will also decide whether they want to keep ranked-choice voting by voting for or against its continued implementation ahead of the November 2018 elections.
No U.S. state has implemented ranked-choice voting until now. Portland began using ranked-choice voting to elect its mayors in 2010, and passed the law to implement the system for statewide elections in a 2016 ballot referendum.
Ireland, Australia and other countries have used the system with success.
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