Election Center

Crafts secures congressional nomination, but ranked-choice voting system remains flawed

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On Tuesday morning, Rep. Dale Crafts officially secured the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District in a ranked-choice vote count conducted by the Secretary of State’s office. 

The win was all but guaranteed for Crafts, who received 46 percent of the vote in the first round of polling. His opponents, Adrienne Bennett and Sen. Eric Brakey, conceded last Wednesday after receiving 32 percent and 23 percent of the vote, respectively, in the first round. 

The Secretary of State’s office began tabulating votes for the second round of polling Friday morning. With Brakey eliminated in the first round, 3,351 of his votes transferred to Crafts, while 2,379 transferred to Bennett. Another 3,252 voters made ballot marking mistakes or exhausted their choices after the first round, resulting in their ballots being discarded. This pushed Crafts to 58.5 percent of the vote, allowing him to clinch the nomination with a majority of the remaining votes. 

Crafts received a majority of the continuing ballots, or those that were left over from Brakey after exhausted or mismarked ballots were eliminated. But of the total ballots cast on election day––46,805––Crafts secured only 49 percent. This same phenomenon occurred when Congressman Jared Golden beat former U.S. Representative Bruce Poliquin in 2018. 

A total of 227 overvotes were discarded between both rounds. In round one, 187 ballots marking two candidates as the first choice were discarded. In round two, 40 votes marking Brakey as the first choice and two candidates as the second choice were discarded. 

Similarly, the election saw 6,870 total undervotes. In round one, 4,271 voters did not fill in a first or second choice, or left the ballot blank entirely. In round two, 2,599 voters marked Brakey as their first choice, and failed to make a valid second round ranking.  

A total of 613 voters marked Brakey as their first choice but filled in no other candidate as their second choice or third choice, thereby exhausting their ballot.

In the end, 7,710 votes were discarded –– about 16.5% of the total number of ballots cast. 

Such disenfranchisement is not unique to the CD2 election. A 2019 report from the Maine Policy Institute looked at 96 ranked-choice voting races and found that an average of 10.92 percent of ballots cast are exhausted by the final round of tabulation. Moreover, an examination of these races reveals that the eventual winner fails to receive a true majority of the votes cast about 61 percent of the time. 

Another flaw of the RCV system is made apparent in the time and taxpayer money wasted tabulating the final results. Even though Crafts’ opponents conceded last week, the state proceeded to count and tabulate votes. This is something lawmakers should consider fixing in the future.  

According to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, his office must follow through with the ranked-choice tabulation process. 

“There is no provision in the ranked-choice voting law to not do the rankings because candidates concede,” Dunlap said. 

Crafts is urging the Maine Legislature to revisit the tabulation process.

“The added cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to tabulate an election that has been completed is an affront to the taxpayer at this difficult time in situations where a tabulation is not necessary,” he said. 

About Isabelle Christie

Isabelle Christie is a senior at Marist College pursuing a degree in history and minors in communication and writing. She is currently serving as Maine Policy Institute’s summer 2020 communications intern.

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