Ranked choice only for federal races

AUGUSTA — Ranked choice voting (RCV) was approved by voters in 2016 via a citizen referendum. The method allows ballot-casters to rank the candidates they support in order of preference. In each round of tallying, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the next choices are added in for the remaining candidates. This process repeats until one person receives 50 percent or more of the vote.

There has been some confusion over which elections RCV would apply. The U.S. Senate race between incumbent U.S. Sen. Angus King (I), Maine Sen. Eric Brakey (R), and Zak Ringelstein (D) will use RCV, as will the U.S. Congressional District races.

The system is not being used for state races, including for governor, Maine State Senate and Maine State House of Representatives, because there are questions about its constitutionality in those cases.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion in 2017 that the state’s constitution requires elections to be won by a plurality of votes (whoever receives the most votes wins, rather than requiring that one candidate receive 50 percent or more).

Changing this would require a constitutional amendment. The legislature voted last year to postpone and repeal RCV unless an amendment could be passed by Dec. 1, 2021, but voters overturned this in a referendum at the ballot box in June. By approving the measure, voters guaranteed that the system will be in place for primary elections as well as to elect candidates to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives in the general election.