Voters across Maine reiterated their support for ranked-choice voting (RCV) in the state's primary election, with 74 percent of precincts reporting that more than 54 percent had voted in favor of the system—an even higher approval rating than the system got in November 2016 when it first appeared on ballots.
Maine just won a historic victory! Today, the people of #Maine voted to protect Ranked Choice Voting! They went up against the political establishment, fought hard, and won this transformative reform to fix our broken elections. Go Maine! #MEpolitics #rcv pic.twitter.com/uQulh3OLAX
— Represent.Us (@RepresentDotUs) June 13, 2018
Advocates of the system credited RCV with encouraging a high voter turnout, as Mainers were also able to rank their choices for gubernatorial candidates.
"There are so many people who were excited to vote, to rank their choices for the first time," Kyle Bailey, manager of the pro-RCV Yes on 1 campaign, told the Portland Press Herald.
Republican Shawn Moody had more than 56 percent of the vote as of Wednesday morning, while none of the seven Democratic candidates had captured a majority of the vote after 74 percent of precincts had reported. Early results showed the most popular Democrat, Attorney General Janet Mills, with just 32.5 percent of the vote.
Under the RCV system, Democratic voters who supported the least-popular candidate will now have their first-choice votes canceled out and applied instead to their second choices. Votes will be recalibrated until one candidate wins a majority.
Hours before polls had even closed on Tuesday, Republican Governor Paul LePage said he would "probably not certify the election" and called RCV "the most horrific thing in the world."
#BREAKING: @Governor_LePage tells me he will 'PROBABLY NOT' certify the results of today's election, will 'leave it up to the courts to decide'—calling ranked-choice voting the 'most horrific thing in the world.' #NEWSCENTERmaine pic.twitter.com/wrKSofz7ov
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Secretary of State Matt Dunlap quickly assured the public that LePage's threats will have no effect on which candidates make it to the ballot in November's general election.
"He cannot stop the nominations from going forward to the general election," Dunlap told the Press Herald. "His role is more or less ceremonial."
LePage and the Republican-controlled state legislature have previously fought against RCV, with lawmakers delaying the system's implementation last year despite its popularity in November 2016, when more than 52 percent of Mainers voted in the system's favor. A signature drive run by advocates gained enough support to bring the issue to another vote and to ensure that RCV was used on Tuesday.
"We are leading the way in pro-democracy reforms, non-partisan reforms that level the playing field, that open the political process to more voices and more choice," Bailey told supporters after local media projected that the Yes on 1 campaign would win the referendum. "This has been a long and winding road to get here to this point. Many of the people here and thousands of people across the state of Maine collected signatures. ...Mainers know our political system is broken, and we have the power to fix it. And that's what Yes on 1 today was all about."