What’s the problem with our current voting system?

A:

Majority rule is a fundamental principle of American representative democracy. Our leaders should be elected by more than half of us.

Races with more than two candidates are common in Maine and often result in winners elected by fewer than half of voters. In 9 of the last 11 races for governor, candidates were elected by fewer than half of voters. In 5 of those races, candidates were elected by fewer than 40% of voters. None of Maine’s governors have been elected to their first term by a majority of voters in the last 40 years.

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Maine has endorsed ranked choice voting as the most cost-effective solution to restore majority rule and to give voters more power.

What are the benefits of voting with a ranked choice ballot?

A:

There are a lot of problems with our politics today. Ranked choice voting is not a silver bullet, but it is something that we can do now to improve Maine politics.

  1. Restores Majority Rule. Ranked choice voting ensures that candidates with the most votes and broadest support win, so voters get what they want. Candidates who are opposed by a majority of voters can never win ranked choice voting elections.

  2. Eliminates Vote Splitting. Ranked choice voting gives you the freedom to vote for the candidate you like the best without worrying that you will help to elect the candidate you like the least. You never have to vote for the "lesser of two evils" when there is another candidate you really like.

  3. More Voice for Voters. Your voice matters more with a ranked ballot. You never feel like your vote is “wasted.” If your favorite candidate can't win, your vote counts for the candidate you ranked second.

  4. More Choice for Voters. Ranked choice voting levels the playing field for all candidates and encourages candidates to take their case directly to you with a focus on the issues.

  5. Reduces Incentives for Negative Campaigning. Candidates are encouraged to seek second choice rankings from voters whose favorite candidate is somebody else. You are less likely to rank as your second choice a candidate who has issued personal attacks against your favorite candidate.

How does ranked choice voting work?

A:

Ranked choice voting gives you the power to rank candidates from your favorite to your least favorite. On Election Night, all the ballots are counted for voters’ first choices. If one candidate receives an outright majority, he or she wins. If no candidate receives a majority, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated and voters who liked that candidate the best have their ballots instantly counted for their second choice. This process repeats and last-place candidates lose until one candidate reaches a majority and wins. Your vote counts for your second choice only if your first choice has been eliminated.

What would our citizen initiative do?

A:

If enacted by Maine voters in November 2016, our citizen initiative would give voters the power to rank candidates running for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Governor, Maine Senate and Maine House beginning in 2018. Ranked choice voting would be used to give voters more power in primary and general elections. Voters could rank as many or as few candidates as they like. Our citizen initiative would create a more representative democracy that restores majority rule and empowers voters.

Is ranked choice voting a new idea?

A:

Ranked choice voting has been used for over 120 years by hundreds of governments and private associations. Ranked choice voting was invented in New England in 1871. It was first used in an 1893 election. Ranked ballots are recommended by Roberts’ Rules of Order. Ranked choice voting has been used to elect the mayor of Portland since 2011. Ranked choice voting legislation has been introduced in the Maine Legislature since 2001 with growing support among Republican, Democratic and Independent lawmakers. In 2016, we're bringing ranked choice voting back home to New England to make our elections and our government work better for the people of Maine.

How did this initiative come about?

A:

Ranked choice voting legislation was introduced in the Maine Legislature when Independent Angus King was governor and when Democrat John Baldacci was governor. It has been introduced since Paul LePage took office with growing support Republican, Democratic and Independent lawmakers.

In 2008, members of the League of Women Voters of Maine began studying possible solutions to restore majority rule, eliminate vote splitting and give voters more power. In 2011, the League endorsed ranked choice voting through a consensus process that involved their membership statewide. In 2013, the League convened a working group of civic leaders and legal scholars that developed language for this citizen initiative.

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting was formed in October 2014 to collect signatures for the citizen initiative.

Who supports ranked choice voting?

A:

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Maine has led the effort to enact ranked choice voting in Maine. The Portland Press Herald, the Brunswick Times Record, the Belfast Republican Journal and other Maine newspapers have editorialized in support of ranked choice voting. Hundreds of business, labor, civic, and faith leaders including Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens, and Libertarians from across Maine have endorsed ranked choice voting. Citizen empowerment groups like Common Cause and FairVote also support ranked choice voting. Prominent backers of ranked choice voting include 2008 presidential rivals Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, who said that ranked choice voting “will lead to good government because voters will elect leaders who have the support of a majority. Elected leaders will be more likely to listen to all.”

Where is ranked choice voting used?

A:

In 2011, voters in Portland, Maine elected their mayor with ranked choice voting. Turnout was 40% higher than election officials projected and the winner was elected with 56% of the vote in the final round. 41% of voters thought there was less negative campaigning, 45% felt more inclined to vote for their favorite candidate and 39% did more homework on the candidates. Cities and counties across the United States use ranked choice voting. Governments around the world use ranked choice voting in national elections, including Australia and Ireland. Ranked ballots are recommended by Roberts’ Rules of Order and are used by hundreds of private associations across the United States and around the world.

Does ranked choice voting favor one party over another?

A:

No. Ranked choice voting does not advantage one political party or faction over another. It’s why cities and towns with Republican, Democratic and Independent majorities have adopted it. It’s why Republicans parties, as well as Democratic parties across the country use it.

Ranked choice voting can influence who decides to run for public office. It can influence how candidates interact with (more) voters and govern as elected leaders (coming to the middle to find common ground). It does not help or hurt the electoral chances of any party.

Does ranked choice voting uphold one person, one vote?

A:

Yes. Courts have already ruled that ranked choice voting upholds the principle of one person, one vote, and it restores the principle of majority rule.

Are ranked choice ballots confusing for the average voter?

A:

No. Whether it's deciding what car to buy or what menu item to order, we make ranked choices every day of our lives. Shouldn't we have the same power to rank candidates for public office? Ranked choice voting just makes sense. In the 2011 mayoral election in Portland, 94% of voters surveyed said that they “fully understood” the ballot design and the voting instructions.

Are electronic voting machines needed for ranked choice elections?

A:

No. Ranked choice voting is designed to work with paper ballots. This initiative does not require, suggest or assume that Maine adopt the use of electronic voting machines. This is a separate issue entirely.

How are overseas voters, including U.S. military personnel who are stationed abroad, impacted by ranked choice voting?

A:

Ranked choice voting allows overseas voters, including U.S. military personnel who are stationed abroad, to participate fully in elections back home. Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and Louisiana use ranked choice ballots to enfranchise overseas voters.

Not all reforms allow overseas voters to participate fully in the democratic process. Actual runoff elections disenfranchise overseas voters, including U.S. military personnel, because there is not enough time to get them a ballot and have it returned.

Ranked choice voting allows our troops stationed abroad to participate fully in elections.

How will ranked choice voting impact primary elections?

A:

​Nominees will emerge from party primaries with the backing of a majority of party voters. Here are several examples of candidates winning primary elections with less than 40% of the vote:

  • In 2012, 6 Republicans and 4 Democrats ran for the open seat for U.S. Senate. The Democratic nominee won her primary with 38% of the vote, while the Republican nominee won his primary with 28% of the vote.

  • In 2010, 5 Democrats and 7 Republicans ran for governor. The Democratic candidate was nominated with 34% of the vote, while the Republican candidate was nominated with 37% of the vote.

  • In 2002, 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans ran for the open seat in Maine's second congressional district. The Republican and Democratic nominees each won their primaries with only 31% of the vote.

Will ranked choice voting impact the partisan composition of the Maine Legislature?

A:

No. Ranked choice voting does not benefit one party over another. It simply ensures that candidates with the most votes win, so voters get what they want and the Legislature is representative of we the people.

Why is ranked choice voting preferable to actual runoff elections?

A:

Actual runoff elections result in a majority winner among those who vote, but voter turnout typically declines sharply when voters are asked to return to the polls in early July and in early December for primary and general election runoffs. In this era of big money politics, actual runoffs also mean that millions of dollars from out of state will be spent by special interests on negative advertising over the summer and during the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Runoff elections also disenfranchise overseas and military voters, cost taxpayers and towns more money, and mean that voters may still cast ballots strategically in the first round to avoid vote splitting that might impact who advances to the runoff.

Does ranked choice voting raise any constitutional questions?

A:

Courts in four states have ruled that ranked choice voting is fully constitutional, saying it upholds one person, one vote, and ensures that the candidate with the most votes is elected. Ranked choice voting elections have been happening for years across the country. Even voters in Portland, Maine have already used this voting system legally for years.

Constitutional scholars at the University of Maine School of Law and other prominent attorneys have confirmed that ranked choice voting is consistent with both the U.S. and Maine Constitutions. Click here to read their opinions.

What data exists to support the argument that ranked choice voting has reduced negative campaigning in jurisdictions where it has been adopted?

A:

In the 2011 ranked choice election for mayor of Portland, 41% of respondents from a survey of early voters conducted by FairVote felt there was less negative campaigning than usual.

In 2014, a study by professors at the University of Iowa and Western Washington University found that only 5% of voters in 7 cities using ranked choice voting thought that candidates criticized each other “a great deal” compared with 25% of voters in cities not using ranked choice voting. The survey also found that cities using ranked choice ballots reported less negative campaigns than in cities that did not use ranked choice ballots. In cities using ranked choice voting, 42% of voters found the campaign season to be less negative, compared to 28% of voters in cities without ranked choice ballots. Clear majorities of voters in all 7 cities with experience casting ranked choice ballots support this reform.

This is important in fostering positive attitudes among the public towards the democratic process. Furthermore, as candidates seek second and third choices, they must reach out beyond their traditional base and engage with a greater number of voters, naturally bringing more people into the democratic process.

What data exists to support the claim that ranked choice voting increases participation in the democratic process?

A:

Ranked choice voting shifts the way candidates interact with constituents and with one another that can lead to higher voter participation.

Ranked choice voting incentivizes greater civility on the campaign trail because candidates need to appeal to all voters, not just to their base of support. As Portland Mayor Mike Brennan put it, “In other campaigns if somebody had a lawn sign of your opponent on the lawn, you walked by. In this case, you stopped and still talked to them.”

On average and across the country, voter turnout has declined in recent years. There are positive indications that ranked choice voting fosters an environment of higher voter participation. One of the best examples of the impact ranked choice voting can have on the democratic process is the 2011 Mayoral race in Portland. In an off-year election, Portland experienced better than 40% turnout, much higher than the 25% percent predicted by the Portland City Clerk’s Office. Cities in California and Minnesota that use ranked choice voting report higher than average voter participation.

Why did the League of Women Voters of Maine endorse ranked choice voting?

A:

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. Following three years of intense research, study and discussion, the League of Women Voters of Maine endorsed Ranked Choice Voting in 2011. Their final position reached through consensus reads as follows:

"The League of Women Voters of Maine supports election systems for elected offices in single seat elections that require the winner to receive a majority of the votes, as long as the majority is achieved by Instant Runoff Voting/Ranked Choice Voting, rather than a second, separate runoff election."

Click here to read more about the League of Women Voters of Maine's Voting Concurrence.

Where can I read the citizen initiative bill?

A:

Click here to read the citizen initiative bill in its entirety.