Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Donna Harkins drops her absentee ballot in a ballot box outside South Portland City Hall Monday, July 13, 2020. (Photo: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)


'Powerful Moment': State Supreme Court Ruling Will Likely Make Maine First in US History to Use Ranked-Choice in Presidential Election

"This ruling is the latest victory for voters who want more consensus, more choice, and a greater voice," one advocate said.

Lisa Newcomb

Ranked-choice voting advocates praised a state Supreme Court ruling in Maine on Tuesday that positions voters there to be the first in U.S. history to employ the practice in a presidential election.

"This is a victory for every Mainer who sat around kitchen tables and in basements years ago, wondering how we could ensure more votes would be heard in our elections," Anna Kellar, executive director of the League of Women Voters, said in a statement following the decision. "It is a victory for the voters who showed up, year after year, affirming 'yes, this is the reform we want for our state.' We are proud to have been part of this next step in our nation's history of better elections."

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court overturned a lower court ruling that would have blocked the use of ranked-choice voting (RCV) in the presidential contest on November 3. Maine's Republican Party has spearheaded attempts to prevent the use of RCV—which voters approved in 2016 and again in 2018—and the court's historic opinion was the latest in a blow to GOP efforts.

A lower court ruled that Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap erroneously invalidated signatures collected for a "people's veto" referendum on RCV, which Dunlap did according to state law that requires signature gatherers to be registered to vote in the towns where they circulate referendum petitions. Republicans argued Dunlap had disenfranchised voters by invalidating the signatures collected by non-registered voters, per state law.

"It is wonderful that Mainers will be able to use ranked-choice voting in presidential elections," Betsy Sweet, a former U.S. Senate and Maine gubernatorial candidate who helped pass RCV in the state, told Common Dreams Tuesday. "It is disheartening that the Republicans continue to try and take away the expansion of democracy that ranked-choice voting represents, even after Mainers voted for it time and time again. I am glad the will of the people is being honored. Ranked-choice voting is an important, positive contribution to democracy."

Tuesday's ruling came on the heels of a op-ed in favor of RCV from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in the Boston Globe last week. Citizens in Massachusetts and Alaska will vote on implementing the process in their states in November, as will residents of cities in California, Colorado, and Minnesota.

"Ranked-choice voting can make our elections more positive and require successful candidates to build broad coalitions," Warren and Raskin wrote. "It can ensure that everyone's vote counts and open the door to elections that more fairly represent the electorate. Most important, ranked-choice voting can make sure that the winning candidates have successfully appealed to the majority of the voters. That's a stronger democracy."

Proponents of RCV echo that sentiment, and say that it allows for more equitable elections, more positive campaigning, and eliminates the "spoiler" effect of crowded races.

The RCV process allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Under the system, if no candidate wins the approval of more than half the voters after the first round of tabulation, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. When a voter's first choice is eliminated, their vote is redistributed to the voter's second choice. This process continues until one candidate gets at least 50% of vote.

"This ruling is the latest victory for voters who want more consensus, more choice, and a greater voice," Evan Falchuk, chair of the board for Yes on 2, the RCV ballot initiative campaign in Massachusetts, told Common Dreams Tuesday. "Ranked-choice voting is popular, effective, constitutional and best reflects the will of the majority of voters." 

"This is a powerful moment for ranked choice voting supporters," Rob Richie, president and CEO of FairVote, said in response to the ruling. "Voters will, for the first time, use ranked-choice voting to elect the highest office in the country."

"America was founded on the promise that your vote matters," Richie continued. "We haven't always lived up to that promise, but over time, our nation's citizens strived to ensure that every vote counts. This is a moment of celebration for those who advocated for ranked-choice voting in Maine, and also a moment of inspiration for every American who will look to Maine and realize they could bring ranked-choice voting to their state."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Sanders Calls John Deere Threat to Take Away Striking Workers' Health Coverage 'Beyond Outrageous'

"Workers must be allowed to keep their healthcare during the strike," said the Vermont senator.

Julia Conley ·

'He Isn’t Negotiating, He Is Killing the Bill': Ilhan Omar Slams Joe Manchin

"Thanks to the butchering of Manchin, Sinema, and the greed of their corporate lobbyists," said one critic, the Democrats' Build Back Better plan has been slashed down to just $1.9 trillion in spending.

Jon Queally ·

'Stop Line 5': Valve Turner Forces Shutdown of Enbridge Oil Pipeline in Michigan

"We are here to protect the water, land, and air that support all life, including our own. Line 5 poses an immediate threat to our lives and these actions are taken out of necessity and in self-defense."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Delay Is the New Denial': Study Confirms 99.9% of Scientists Agree on Climate

"It's pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change."

Brett Wilkins ·

Exposed: How Pfizer Exploits Secretive Vaccine Contracts to Strong-Arm Governments

"Pfizer has used its monopoly on a lifesaving vaccine to extract concessions from desperate governments," said the report's author, urging action from the Biden administration.

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo