Our way of thinking and talking about ranked-choice voting obscures the fundamental change to Maine’s voting rules that the new law entails.

To win an election in which ranked-choice voting can be used, a candidate now must win a majority of the votes cast, not just a plurality. That is the real change effected by the law, and everything else flows from that.

Any election system in which a majority is needed to win must provide for runoffs in those multi-candidate races in which no one wins a majority in the initial vote. In Maine’s case, the ranked-choice procedures that we’ve been focused on are merely the means we are using to carry out runoffs when those are required by initial vote outcomes.

It might have been better to adopt the name “instant runoff” rather than “ranked-choice” voting, as this better conveys what is going on in the voting booth when we mark our ballots. Even better, perhaps, would be to name the law the “majority-needed-to-win” election rule.

I suspect that those who have been opposing adoption of ranked-choice voting have understood better than others the centrality of the majority-needed-to-win aspect of the rule, and its potential for transforming political outcomes in Maine.

Thomas Eichler


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