Maine Voters Could Use Ranked Choice in Presidential Election

A big change could be coming for Maine voters.

The state could become the first in the nation to use ranked choice voting in presidential primaries and general elections.

Voters would be able to list candidates in order of preference instead of picking just one.

If no candidate gets a 50 percent majority, those other choices get tallied up until a majority is reached.

Maine has used the system for U.S. Senate and House elections since it was implemented in 2018, but it could not have been allowed for presidential elections without legislative action.

On Monday, a bill allowing that cleared Maine's senate in a special late summer session after it was tabled earlier in 2019.

The change was somewhat unexpected by some leaders, including Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

"I was concerned [Monday] because we had an understanding that only measures that I had sponsored would be dealt with," said Mills.

The bill now sits on Mills' desk, and she's not sure if she'll sign it.

"I'll take my time and look at it," she said.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap called implementing the change a "significant challenge," but not an impossible one.

A yet-to-be-designed ballot will have to be specially printed months before the primary. It could include candidates who will drop out before the vote actually happens.

There is also a $100,000 additional cost to changing the voting method that will have to get covered at some point, as well.

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson says he's aware of the questions that will need to be answered before March, but he also felt there was strong support from voters for ranked choice voting and that it should be applied to federal elections.

"[Monday] was the last day to make it happen before Super Tuesday," said Jackson.

Jackson also said the bill, if signed, could affect some presidential candidates "negatively, some positively."

Dunlap believes any questions the campaigns have will be directed to him and he assumes the campaigns will make contact with his office soon.

The potential change comes at the same time as Maine prepares to hold primaries instead of caucuses for the first time in years on March 3, 2020.

Mills has roughly 10 days to decide if ranked choice voting will be used for that vote or veto the bill.

She could also allow the bill to become law without her signature.

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