Voters in District 3 cast ballots at last November’s general election. If a local referendum passes, voters across the city will use ranked choice voting to elect councilors and school board members. File photo

PORTLAND — Voters in the city will head to the polls Tuesday, March 3, and in addition to choosing their party’s presidential candidate, they will decide how municipal and school candidates are elected and weigh in on a statewide immunization law.

Portland voters will be asked whether they support electing city councilors and school board members through ranked choice voting. The system has been used in the Portland mayoral race since 2011 and statewide for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives races since the 2018 election.

With ranked choice voting, in a three-way race for example, voters rank their first-, second- and third-place choices. Votes are counted until one person has more than 50% of the vote. If no receives more than 50%, the person with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated and the second-choice votes on those ballots are counted. The process continues until a candidate receives more than 50%.

In the November 2019 general election, the only council or school board race in which a candidate earned at least 50 percent was when Adam Burk secured 70% of the vote in his race against Sam Rosenthal to represent District 3 on the school board. Tae Chong was easily victorious in a five-way race for the District 3 council seat, but only captured 43% of the vote.

The change is being spearheaded by Fair Elections Portland.

“Ranked Choice Voting allows us to ensure a winning candidate has the support of the majority of voters, even in a crowded field, like last November’s District 3 Council race,” Anna Kellar, spokesperson for Fair Elections Portland, said in a statement to the Portland Press Herald. “Portland voters have embraced RCV for mayor, state and federal offices. More than 6,000 voters signed a petition last summer to expand RCV to City Council and School Board.”

All voters will be asked in a statewide referendum whether they want to overturn an immunization law that now removes religious and philosophical exemptions to immunization requirements for students of schools and colleges in Maine and for employees of nursery schools and health care facilities. A yes vote on the referendum eliminates the law and restores the exemptions; a no vote keeps the law as-is on the books.

In the presidential primary, Democrats will be choosing between eight candidates who are still in the race: former Vice President and former U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, businessman and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. President Donald Trump is the only candidate on the Republican ballot.

The Clerk’s Office will remain open until 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, the last day of absentee/early voting.

On Election Day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. All polling places, a list of which can be found on the city clerk’s website, are handicapped accessible. Voters can register the day of at their polling location.

Sample ballots can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.

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