AUGUSTA

Maine’s first crack at ranked-choice voting went off without a hitch, and backers of the voting method are hopeful the results will motivate other states to give it a try.

The state finished its first ranked-choice process Wednesday when it named the winners of Democratic primaries for governor and the 2nd Congressional District.

The system, approved by voters in a 2016 referendum, had voters rank their candidate choices from first to last. It’s currently used in 11 local jurisdictions around the country, as well as in Maine’s primaries and U.S. House and Senate races.

Rob Richie, president of the electoral reform group FairVote, said it’s key that Maine got through the process without major problems. It was the first time ranked-choice voting was used in a statewide primary in the U.S.

Here’s a look at the results, and what to expect in the future.

By the numbers

It took four rounds of tabulations for Attorney General Janet Mills to be declared a winner in a seven-candidate Democratic primary for governor. In the 2nd District Congressional District, it took only one extra round for state Rep. Jared Golden to win a three-candidate primary for Congress.

Additional tabulations were triggered in the races because no one collected a majority of first-round votes. Additional voting rounds, using a system sometimes called “instant runoff,” eliminated last-place finishers. Voters’ second place selections were reallocated to the remaining field.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap released the final election results on Wednesday, eight days after voting took place. The results said more than 90 percent of ballots stayed in play until the last voting round. That means the vast majority of voters included Mills or the second-place finisher, attorney Adam Cote, on their ballots.

In the end, more than 54 percent of voters picked Mills under the ranked-choice system. She had picked up 33 percent in the June 12 primary, good for first place at the time.

The results also suggest most voters understood the ballots.

Civility reigns

Mills said despite some attacks among Democratic candidates, ranked-choice voting may have elevated the civility of the campaign overall.

“I think people were cognizant of the fact they couldn’t alienate another candidate or another candidate’s supporters,” she said.

Ranked-choice voters tout increased civility as one of the benefits of the system. But Mills and Cote did spar at times over Mills’ record on gun policy and an out-of-state group’s last-minute, costly purchase of TV ads attacking Cote. Mills said such outside money had little to do with the results

She said the results show she had strong support from Democratic voters overall.

“I’m going to run a positive campaign,” she said.

What comes next?

Ranked-choice voting figures to play a prominent role in Maine’s November general election, which will have two U.S. House races and a U.S. Senate race.

The Senate race pits independent incumbent Angus King against Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey and liberal Democratic activist Zak Ringelstein. In the 1st Congressional District, independent state Rep. Marty Grohman and Republican Mark Holbrook will challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

King and Pingree are both popular incumbents, but the addition of ranked-choice voting adds a new wrinkle. Ranked choice will not be used in November’s gubernatorial election because of concerns that it could violate the state constitution.

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