By: Eric Reid

In 2016, voters in Maine decided to become the first state in the nation to adopt a ranked-choice voting system for state and federal elections.

Most voting systems in the United States are what is called “First Past the Post” system or the “Winner Takes All” system. In this system, the candidate who receives the most votes or a plurality wins the election.  Maine’s new system, also known as “instant runoff”, only applies in races with three or more candidates. At the ballot box, a voter would rank candidates from most-favored to least-favored according to his or her preference. If a candidate got a majority of first-placed votes, then that candidate wins. If, however, no candidate received a majority of first-placed votes, then the least-ranked candidate is dropped and the process begins again. Those voters who picked the dropped candidate would then have their votes reallocated, and the process would cycle until a candidate finally won. For example, in an election with ten candidates, a voter would rank each candidate once from one to ten. The candidate that had the most negative votes would be removed, and the votes reallocated to reflect the dropped candidate. A candidate is dropped in each cycle until a candidate finally receives a majority of votes.

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