Maine voters Tuesday became the first in the country to use ranked-choice voting in a statewide election, and despite predictions to the contrary, there was no widespread confusion or chaos.

Instead, ranked-choice voting and the related people’s veto on the fate of ranked-choice itself appeared to boost interest in the June election, which in turn showed that the voting system worked much the way supporters said it would.

From the time the ballots were printed, ranked-choice voting became part of the campaigns it would help decide.

The Republican Party unsuccessfully fought the use of ranked-choice voting in Tuesday’s vote, and each of the candidates for that party’s gubernatorial nomination opposed it. One of them, Mary Mayhew, went as far as to tell her supporters to vote for her – and only her.

In the end, however, few did, and Mayhew finished a distant third to businessman Shawn Moody, who, with more than 50 percent of the vote, was declared the winner. In this case, there was a clear favorite among voters, and thus further rounds of counting were not necessary.

But on the Democratic side, there was no clear-cut winner in the field of seven. Janet Mills and Adam Cote led the way after the first round, but because no Democratic Blaine House hopeful received more than 50 percent of the vote, the counting continues.


According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the ballots will be brought to Augusta starting Thursday, and the tabulation process will begin. In the next round, the candidate who received the fewest first-place votes will be dropped. Everyone who voted for that candidate will have their second-place choices counted instead, and that process will continue until a candidate has received more than half the votes.

What will be left is a nominee who appeals broadly to the electorate – a candidate who received not only first-place votes but a lot of second- and third-place selections as well. A passionate minority won’t be able to hijack a campaign featuring a large field like before, leaving the majority unhappy but stuck with the selection. No longer do we have to spend valuable time arguing over spoilers instead of debating the issues.

That dynamic is perhaps most useful in a general election, where candidates present a wider range of political ideologies. In that scenario, a candidate with extreme views and a relatively small group of dedicated followers can beat two or three opponents who more closely agree, and more closely match the views of the electorate.

Because of conflicts with the state constitution, ranked-choice voting won’t be used in November’s election for governor. But Tuesday’s vote will keep the system in place for the general elections for U.S. House and Senate – and for all state and federal primaries. Voters made that certain with their clear support for Question 1, which won by a larger margin than when ranked-choice voting was approved for the first time – in the high-turnout 2016 presidential election.

The popularity of ranked-choice voting – despite all the effort to portray it as confusing, even un-American – means that one day it could be used in all elections, which could be accomplished through a constitutional amendment. After a successful run Tuesday, that day is a little closer.

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