With Maine’s historic statewide first-in-the-nation ranked-choice election behind us, we have witnessed a massive change – at least among the way opponents talk about it.

The same people who were warning of “chaos” and bizarre results are now complaining that nothing happened.

In every race on June 12, the candidate with the most votes in the first round was the ultimate winner, even in the races where instant runoffs were needed to give the leader more than 50 percent of the vote. No one even changed position as the new rounds of votes were counted.

But that’s not all that didn’t happen. Few voters reported being confused by the process. And there is no evidence that ballots were “thrown out” before the end of the process. At least in the Democratic primary for governor, where the most rounds of runoffs were needed to pick a winner, almost everyone who voted expressed a preference between the top two candidates. Votes for Janet Mills and Adam Cote equaled just under 90 percent of the total number of votes cast in the seven-way race.

Critics point out that ranked-choice voting didn’t eliminate negative campaigning or change the way most candidates ran their races, but it was still brand new and its legal status was up in the air long after strategic campaign decisions were made.

Some people mocked the length of time it took for Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to tabulate the results, but he gets credit for being careful and making sure the votes were counted right the first time. Is a week of campaigning in June for a November election such a high price to pay for an accurate result?


It’s true that the nominations went to the people who got the most votes in the first round, but that just means they were the most broadly acceptable, which is what the vote-counting system is designed to determine. Just because nothing strange happened doesn’t mean that nothing happened.

Voters who filled out a ranked-choice ballot had more opportunity to record their views.

They could vote for the candidate who had the best ideas without worrying about who might be the most electable. If they wanted to, they could listen to the debate without having to sort the candidates into “contenders” and “spoilers.”

None of that will be available in November, when voters will only get to cast one vote in a multi-candidate race and will have to calculate what they believe other voters might be thinking so they don’t want to waste their vote on a candidate who doesn’t have a chance and help the “greater of two evils” win the race.

The voters who participated in this election can say which system is more chaotic and bizarre.

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