How to vote using ranked choice

ELLSWORTH Maine will make history on Nov. 3 as the first state to use ranked choice voting in a presidential election, after a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court. 

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court in September ruled that Republican opponents failed to reach the threshold of signatures needed for a “people’s veto” referendum aimed at overturning a state law that expands ranked choice voting to the presidential election.

With ranked choice voting reaffirmed as the state’s method for the upcoming presidential and congressional elections, here is a refresher on how the process works.

Ranked choice voting “allows voters to choose candidates in order of preference,” according to an informational video available on Voters do not have to rank candidates if they choose not to. To vote for just one candidate, simply fill in the bubble next to the candidate’s name in the first-choice column and leave the remaining choices blank. To vote using RCV, rank as many or as few candidates as you wish but be sure to only fill in one bubble per column. Voters can only have one first choice, one second choice and so on. Only rank the candidates you support.

Following the election, if no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the ranked choice voting tabulation process kicks in. 

A winner is determined by rounds. If no one received more than 50 percent of votes after the first tally, officials eliminate the candidate who finished last and redistribute that candidate’s votes based on each voter’s second-choice pick. The process continues until a candidate reaches 50 percent of the vote plus one vote.

“Voters who ranked the defeated candidate as their first choice have their votes counted for their second choice,” explains a voting guide produced by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Maine. “This is repeated until only two candidates remain. The one with the most votes wins.” 

The informational video offers a few clarifying tips. If a voter skips a rank (for example, if a voter skips making a second choice), then whoever is listed as the third choice will be bumped up to the second choice. If a voter skips two ranks, then the only vote that will count is the one that appeared before the double skipped rankings. If a voter picks one candidate for all of the rankings, only the first ranking will count toward the subsequent rounds (if there are any). 

This year, presidential candidates appearing on the Maine ballot are Joe Biden (Democratic), President Donald Trump (Republican), Roque De La Fuente (Alliance Party), Howard Hawkins (Green Independent) and Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian).

For U.S. Senate, the candidates are incumbent Sen. Susan Collins (Republican), Sara Gideon (Democratic), Max Linn (independent) and Lisa Savage (Green Independent). There are only two candidates for the U.S. House 2nd District, incumbent Rep. Jared Golden (Democratic) and Dale Crafts (Republican).

All of the ballots and memory devices with voting results will be transported by courier to a secure location in Augusta for counting, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. State officials say the ranked choice tabulation process, if used, “will take a while,” but unofficial results will be reported as soon as they are known. Ranked choice voting will not be used for general elections for governor or for state legislators. 

Voters with questions on ranked choice voting can go to or call 626-8400.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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