Maine allows for ranked-choice voting without governor's signature

Maine allows for ranked-choice voting without governor's signature

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) said Friday that she will allow legislation for the state to become the first in the nation to use ranked-choice voting in presidential elections to take effect without her signature.

By choosing not to sign the bill, the law won’t take effect before the state’s presidential primary in March. In a written release, Mills said her decision came, in part, due to concerns about costs, logistics and a lack of funding.

“My experience with ranked-choice voting is that it gives voters a greater voice and it encourages civility among campaigns and candidates at a time when such civility is sorely needed,” Mills said in a statement. “At the same time, there are serious questions about the cost and logistics of ranked-choice voting, including collecting and transporting ballots from more than 400 towns in the middle of winter, and questions remain about the actual impact of this particular primary on the selection of delegates to party conventions.”

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Voters using ranked-choice voting submit a ballot that ranks candidates in order of preference. The candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the vote wins, but if nobody earns a majority, an instant-runoff situation occurs.

In this situation, the candidate with the least amount of first-place votes is eliminated and those votes are then reallocated to the voters' second choices.

Proponents of ranked-choice voting in Maine argue the system helps ensure a majority winner, while critics claim it doesn't align with the state's constitution.

The state will also implement a new system for the March primary based on a law that replaces caucuses to select a party’s nominee, the Portland Press Herald reported.

“In the case of the presidential primary, the purpose is not to elect an individual or to choose electors for President, but to allow the party using the primary system to apportion delegates to its convention,” Mills said. “Even without this bill, however, the parties could still use ranked-choice voting, or some similar process, in the selection of delegates.”

The announcement comes after state voters in June 2018 chose to overhaul the state's election system and use ranked-choice voting in the midterms.

Maine is one of two states — Nebraska is the second — that splits its Electoral College votes based on election outcomes in each of its two congressional districts.