Election Center

Campaign launched to repeal ranked-choice voting for presidential elections

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On Tuesday, February 4, the Maine Republican Party announced they are launching a People’s Veto campaign to repeal LD 1083. The bill, which went into law without Governor Mills’ signature, applies ranked-choice voting to presidential primary and general elections. LD 1083 was passed and sent to Governor Mills’ desk during the special session in August, however its status was frozen until the legislature reconvened in January because the governor chose not to sign it after the legislature adjourned. 

This move gives the Maine Republican Party extra time to mount support for the People’s Veto campaign. The party said in its statement that it would begin distributing petitions this week. Petitioners typically have 90 days to collect signatures for the People’s Veto campaigns after the legislature adjourns. However, the bill technically became public law on January 12, 2020 and would go into effect 90 days after the session ends. 

Statutory adjournment this session is April 15, 2020, which would give petitioners until 5:00 p.m. on July 14, 2020 to turn signatures into the Secretary of State’s office. In other words, supporters of the veto have significantly more time to collect signatures for this veto. 

If petitioners obtain at least 63,067 valid signatures from registered voters in Maine, they will be able to delay implementation of LD 1083 until after the 2020 presidential election. This means ranked-choice voting for presidential election would be delayed until at least 2024. However, the question would be placed on the November ballot and voters would choose whether they want to keep the law for future presidential elections or repeal it altogether. 

Last August, The Maine Heritage Policy Center released a report that examined 96 ranked-choice voting elections across the country and showed the voting system does not live up to its proponents’ promises. 

In response to the Maine’s GOP’s announcement Tuesday, Anna Kellar, the Executive Director for the League of Women Voters of Maine said, “November candidates and the parties that support them have nothing to fear from RCV if they have the support of a majority of Maine people.” 

However, the biggest downfall of ranked-choice voting is that it only produces a true majority winner approximately 39 percent of the time and creates a faux majority approximately 61 percent of the time. This occurs because some voters’ ballots become exhausted, or get thrown out, during each round of counting and vote reallocation. If a voter only ranks candidates who are mathematically eliminated from contention, their vote is not counted in the final tally.

For example, 289,624 votes were cast for a candidate on election night in the 2018 Second Congressional District race. After William Hoar and Tiffany Bond were eliminated from contention in the second round of counting, 8,253 ballots were eliminated, and were thus excluded from the final denominator used to determine a “majority” winner.

It is as if those voters never showed up on Election Day in 2018. Jared Golden was declared the victor of that election with 142,440 votes, which only accounted for 49.2 percent of the initial vote count — undoubtedly short of a true majority. 

Under LD 1083, three ranked-choice voting tabulations would occur to allocate Maine’s presidential electors because the state subscribes to the split-vote model, whereby two electors are selected via the statewide popular vote and one elector is chosen by the popular vote in each congressional district. 

If Maine held the deciding electoral votes, the rest of the nation could be required to wait days or weeks until subsequent rounds of counting are tabulated to declare a victor. It took nine days to determine Golden the winner of the Second Congressional District race in 2019.

About Adam Crepeau

Adam Crepeau is a former policy analyst at Maine Policy Institute.

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