Independent Voters, Keep an Eye on Maine's Coming Election Experiment

Initiative introducing 'ranked-choice' voting passes.


Americanspirit /

Voters in Maine have given a thumbs' up to a shift in how some votes are counted. Independents, libertarians and supporters of third-party candidates are going to want to pay attention to what happens.

Maine voters have approved Question 5, by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent. Question 5 introduces ranked-choice voting to statewide races (like governor) and races for lawmakers, both on the state and federal level.

What this means is that for the next statewide elections (beginning in 2018), voters will not just select a single candidate as their choice in races where there are more than two options. They will have the option to rank the candidates in order of preference. In order to actually win the race, the top candidate must win the majority of the votes among all the candidates, not just a plurality. If the top candidate does not get a majority of the votes, the candidate with the least number of votes is tossed from the race. For ballots that ranked that losing candidate as the first choice, the second choice will now be counted instead. Then there's a recount. This will continue until a single candidate receives a majority of the vote, which may not be the same candidate that won the initial round.

This has the potential to be a major boon to independent and third-party candidates in cases where the Democrats and Republicans put forth two polarizing, unpopular candidates that large groups of people don't want to vote for, just as an example. Voters are left with an option that doesn't make them feel like they're "throwing their vote away" if they vote for a third-party or independent candidate.

If the presidential race had been decided through ranked-choice voting, for example, Jill Stein supporters could have ranked her first, then held their noses and ranked Hillary Clinton second if they wanted to. Assuming that Stein performed at the numbers she did last night, she would be dumped and those votes actually would go to Clinton.

Some cities have ranked-choice voting, but no states as yet. Maine's experiment will be very important to watch for those looking for options to break the country out of the iron grip of two-party rule and the apparent game of chicken with the voters that resulted this year's presidential election. It doesn't necessarily mean an increased likelihood of third-party or independent candidates winning, and that's not how we should grade success. We should look for outcomes like electoral participation, satisfaction with choices, what issues become central to the races, and overall happiness and support for whomever wins.

NEXT: Progressive Dream of Single-Payer Healthcare Goes Down Hard in Colorado

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  1. In the next election Mainers will be able to rank who they want in charge, D-Money, Smoothie, or Shifty.

    1. Impossible. Those dudes are from Connecticut, they only come to Maine to sell drugs and knock up white girls.

      1. Well then they will get to rank them in order of who they want to knock up their white girls.

    2. It’s not shifty to use your d-money for a smoothie.

  2. Can we go back to Robby’s article for a second and explore his thesis that the reason why DT got elected was because of SJWs? I thought it was because of asshole racists. Why can’t anyone lay the blame where it belongs? #CalExit

    1. #CalExit
      Even you come up with good ideas sometimes, but probably for the wrong reason.

      Anyway, I think it was mainly because of Wikileaks. It sucks when the truth comes out, doesn’t it?

    2. Time to move to Cuba, amsoc?

      1. Americans have already ruined its oh so authentic grinding poverty.

        1. Venezuela will do — for a while.

  3. I thought

    No you didn’t.

    it was because of asshole racists.

    It was, but not at all in the way you’re probably picturing.

  4. Biggest winner last night: Pocahontas.

  5. “What this means is that for the next statewide elections (beginning in 2018), voters will not just select a single candidate as their choice in races where there are more than two options”

    But, They’ll all be on the pots! Stop this madness now! Create a list and put people on it! People shooting up the pots should not be allowed to vote!

  6. So I wonder if a secessionist movement will develop among the liberal stronghold states now?

  7. Are you supposed to rank every candidate or can you just say “no fucking way” to some of them.

    Johnson = 1
    Trump = 2
    Stein = 2,000,000,000
    Putin = 1,999,999,999
    Clinton = NO FUCKING WAY

    1. First of all the Maine ballot measure does not apply to presidential elections. Only to state governor and state and federal legislative elections, so your example is irrelevant.

      That said…

      Are you supposed to rank every candidate…

      That will depend on how it’s implemented and how many candidates there are in a given election. My understanding is that the Maine version allows up to 5 candidates to be ranked, so in an election with (say) four candidates you would have number every candidate. If, however, there were six candidates you would only be ABLE to number five, so the sixth would remain unnumbered.

      …or can you just say “no fucking way” to some of them.

      No. That would not be a valid vote. What you can do, however, is put the candidate you like least last. That is, at the bottom of your rank list.

  8. Libertarians will complain no matter what system is used, unless it’s a system that’s been promoted in some libertarian circles, such as this form of ranked voting (instant runoff). States that have implemented top 2 runoff systems, even though they more closely approximate IRV than plurality voting does, are complained about because the libertarian (or in Calif. the Republican) didn’t make the top 2, and “nobody pays att’n” to round 1 of the voting (because that used to be when the party primary was, & they call it the “primary”). But at least an actual runoff (as in top-2) has the advantage of letting the voters reconsider after the field has been narrowed down, rather than have to rank their preferences all at once. In an election with 3 major contenders, it’d seem to be just as good as IRV in surmounting the wasted-vote problem. Plus, it gets the state out of the biz of candidate selection for the parties, which IRV (assuming between nominees) doesn’t. What’s for a libertarian not to like?

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