Making the case for ranked-choice voting

By GLENN C. ALTSCHULER  |  April 17, 2019

After all the ballots were counted in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in 2018, Democrat Jared Golden, a 36-year-old Marine Corps veteran, trailed Bruce Poliquin, the Republican incumbent, by about 2,000 votes. But on November 15, Golden was declared the winner. Thanks to ranked-choice voting, which Maine voters had ratified in a ballot initiative (applicable to state and federal offices) in 2016 and re-affirmed in 2018, Golden picked up votes given to independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar in the first round. The final tally was 50.53 percent for Golden to 49.7 percent for Poliquin, a difference of about 3,000 votes.

Also known as instant-runoff voting (IRV), the system allows, but does not require, voters to rank candidates on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If not, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated, and second preference choices are allocated to the remaining candidates. The process is repeated until someone obtains a majority.

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