In this election, Maine voters will become the first in any state to cast their ballots for president of the US using a system known as ranked-choice voting (RCV). Mainers will also use RCV in other federal races including the US Senate and Congress.
Under this system, rather than make a single mark on your ballot for the one candidate you choose, voters instead can rank each candidate in order of their preference.
With RCV, when no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote, another round of vote counting is done after removing the candidate who received the lowest number of votes.
In this round, if a voter’s first choice is eliminated, the second choice they marked on their ballot is counted as their first choice. The counting process is repeated in this fashion until a candidate receives more than 50% of the votes.
This process makes the ballot much more complicated and raises a number of questions I want to help answer for you before you vote.
As an example, this year’s ballot for president has five candidates and one “Write-in” space for you to enter your own, different choice if you prefer.
To the right of each name are six columns with bubble-in circles for you to show which candidate is your first choice, second choice, etc.
As with any new system, there are many potential questions, but here are a few that come up frequently and may help as you consider your ballot.
What happens if I only rank one candidate as my first choice and that is the only mark I make?
This is acceptable and your vote will count toward your choice unless that candidate is eliminated during the RCV counting process.
What happens if I mark my preferred candidate in every rank slot, ranking them first, second, third, and so on?
This, too, is acceptable and is the same as if you only marked them once. Your vote will count toward your choice unless that candidate is eliminated during the RCV counting process.
What happens if I accidentally skip a rank column but mark a later choice (for example, rank 1st and 3rd, but not 2nd)?
The first (or highest) rank you give to a candidate will be counted toward them until they are eliminated during the RCV counting process. If you skip a rank, for example, by ranking someone first and another third but no second choice, the next highest rank you chose will be used (in this example, the candidate you ranked third will be ranked second).
What happens if I accidentally mark two candidates in the same column?
Your vote will be disqualified. If you notice this while voting in-person, notify the poll workers that you have spoiled your ballot and need a new one.
Remember, this system only applies to federal offices this cycle, not state or local elections, but they do apply the same whether you vote in-person, by absentee ballot, or by mail-in ballot.
There are many other questions that may arise, and if you have any, or are confused about anything to do with this fall’s election, simply visit this page on the Secretary of State’s website.
As always, it is very important that you vote, that you are clear about the choices you make, and that your ballot accurately reflects those choices.
So, get to know the candidates running in your area, make sure you are registered to vote and then make your voice heard at the ballot box.