Maine will be first state to use ranked choice voting in presidential election

Originally published at:


Well, good for them. Real progress.

Trump attack re rigged election being tweeted in 3…2…1…


This news made my day. Thanks. I’ve always thought that using a binary voting system for more than two candidates was dumb. I’m glad that election officials are starting to realize that as well.


For this to succeed there needs to be a big change in the campaign process. The reality is most voters still see only two choices.

Ah yes, but WHICH ranked-choice voting? Usually when they just say RCV they mean instant-runoff (as in this case). But no social choice algorithm comes without compromise. Instant-runoff has the weird quirk that if a non-winner were to drop out of the race at the last minute it could change the winner of the election.

[Or, in other words, election engineers could sometimes change the outcome of an election by either ignoring or not ignoring the votes for a candidate who had dropped out, which adds the unexpected quirk that the exact mechanism for vote counting chosen can alter the outcome.]


The not Republican and not Democratic candidates are making a good run of it. I believe there’s been a bigger impact in the House races, which also used this in 2018. With the House Democratic candidate working with Independent ones. It helps that Maine has an Independent Senator and the Democrats aren’t super strong either.

It makes for a much different campaign when done right. Where two candidates that are similar can campaign on what they agree on and the nuanced differences instead of trashing each other. With a goal that their supporters rank them 1 and 2 ahead of the others. Each wanting to be first, but also wanting to be the other’s voters second choice. In turn, this can increase voter turn out, which makes a huge difference. Probably a bigger one than trying to flip voters preferences drastically.

Reporting and polling still needs a huge overhaul though. Polls that work in other areas are misleading if they’re not asking for ranking information. Single answer polling showing just 2 candidates and ignoring the others will all be incorrect.

Right wing media and the losing Republican candidate started complaining immediately after the 2018 House race. He wanted a win with 46.33% of the first round over the second place 45.58%. In the final round, those changed to 49.37% and 50.62%.


Not really. For this to succeed, it just needs to be an option. It might not immediately end up cracking the 2 party system, but it immediately eliminates the “spoiler” effect of additional parties running.

The same we’ve been using for other offices for a couple years now. If there are 4 candidates running for state senate, I rank them in order of my preference. The ballot makes it really easy. All our first choices are tallied, if no one gets a majority, the lowest vote getter is eliminated. So if that person was my first choice, now my second choice counts. But if that person wasn’t my first choice, my first choice still counts. Rinse and repeat until someone gets a clear majority.
I love it. We fought really hard for this, and are still defending it against the state RNC. There was a story about their latest attack in our paper this weekend.


So true! They don’t know what to make of our current senate race! It will be interesting to see that part catch up.

1 Like

This looks like a great first step. Go Maine!
Next? Add “No Confidence” to the list of candidates. If it wins, we start over with new candidates.
Sure, this brings logistical challenges, and would likely have to be rolled out and tried in smaller races first.
Imagine if you didn’t feel forced to vote for useless corporate/establishment shite Joe Biden just to keep Trump out. Wouldn’t that be great?
Both parties, especially the Ds, would have to listen to voters and produce quality candidates. Third party voters wouldn’t be demonized and blamed for not supporting crappy D candidates over slightly more crappy R candidates.

Edit–H/T Jello Biafra from some spoken word album decades ago


Just be positive some performance artist or Libertarian wacko doesn’t change their name to “No Confidence”
On my recent state governors primary the first choice was a man by the name of “Nobody”


This is not the only ranked-choice mechanism, is what I’m saying. And every ranked-choice mechanism permits some mathematical quirk that leads to… weird outcomes. IRV is the most readily understandable RCV mechanism but also has one of the weirdest quirks, i.e., whether you tally or delete the dead guy’s votes can affect who wins in the final accounting.

The other voting mechanisms (e.g. Borda count) have similarly unexpected and undesirable quirks. In fact, you can prove mathematically that no voting mechanism has all the desirable properties for a social choice algorithm. It’s fun times!


Oh, apologies. I thought you were asking which kind we were using. Oh, wait, you were…

I was just answering that, not making any statement about mathematical quirks. And I’m just psyched we won the latest round of battles, so not really ready to nit pick yet, taking time to relish the win. :wink:


How is that different than our more common plurality voting, where a candidate pulls out or dies after the ballot choices are determined and prior to the election?

I would assume (and we all know what that means), that an IRV RCV election should follow whatever the existing rules already were around candidates dropping out or between ballot certification and election day. Wasn’t there a federal race in the last decade where a dead guy won the race?


What’s different is that tallying (or not) the votes of the guy that everyone knows will come in third place can change who comes in first!

You’re right that this stuff should all be settled ahead of time, but Bush v. Gore should also not have required the Supreme Court to intervene. Imagine a lawsuit that determines whether Joe Lastplace (may he rest in peace) should have his votes considered in the instant runoff or not?

To be fair, the conditions desired for social choice algorithms, as articulated in social choice theory, are edge-casey and mathematical, but they represent relatively sensible desirable qualities for a voting method.

I understand that having a name on a ballot (any ballot) for a dead guy, and then deciding to not count them or count them anyway has an impact. My question is, why would this be any different for an RCV election than a plurality one?

The now questionable ballot choice can be:

  • Counted anyway, as if they were still alive.
  • Ignored, as if it wasn’t on the ballot, even though it’s plainly there.

In a plurality ballot with only one vote choice, counting anyway could elect a dead guy, ignoring it makes a voters choice not count. Neither is a great outcome. But, the rules should be well defined ahead of time, before the ballots are even determined.

An RCV ballot should have the exact same rules.

Having said that, I can see where some proposals to change from plurality to RCV could also try and change what is really independent rules around how to deal with changes after ballots are determined and prior to election day. That’s probably poor planning, and shouldn’t be part of the same mix.

I don’t know how Maine deals with changes that occur after ballots have been determined.

If it was my choice, I think I lean towards whatever is on the ballot is counted, no changes after it’s determined. Otherwise, what’s the point in determining it any date prior to election day. If someone can drop out, someone should also be able to be added.

I’m a big fan of ranked choice voting. Very happy that this is being used for elections. I hope all 50 states go this way - would really help 3rd party candidates get more visibility if people could vote for them while also not torpedoing their second choice candidate from the major parties. I do hope that they reveal the number of votes that the 3rd party candidates got, so people know what the population really thinks.


Really the “deleting the dead guy” from the ballot is just a way of giving concreteness to the “independence of irrelevant alternatives” condition that’s desired for social choice algorithms:

The social preferences between alternatives x and y depend only on the individual preferences between x and y.


If A is preferred to B out of the choice set {A , B}, introducing a third option X , expanding the choice set to {A , B , X}, must not make B preferable to A.


In this case, we have a case where the individual preferences for candidate z can alter the group decision between x and y. This is not true in plurality voting. [EDIT: WRONG]

IRV also violates monotonicity: if a bloc increases the rank of their vote for A, it can actually harm A’s chances of winning.


They published all the results and for each round after 2018. Just like a plurality election publishes all the results.

You’ve lost me there. In plurality voting, the introduction of candidate Z can definitely alter the decision between X and Y. Commonly called the spoiler effect, when candidate Z is similar to X and the total votes for Z and X is greater than Y, but Y wins anyway because it’s larger than either Z or X individually.

Can you point to a game theory (or other) example of this?


Ranked choice voting should be the norm. Plurality voting sucks. Not as much as the Electoral College does, but still.

On that Mr. Beat video: just as he says “third-party candidates get shut out, even if they are great candidates”, he shows a clip of Gary Johnson. [Fry eyes narrowing GIF]


I’m a big fan of ranked choice voting, especially in primaries. I have to believe that ranked choice voting in the primaries might lead to avoiding disasters like Donald Trump in 2016, and maybe to someone like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren winning the Dem nom in 2020.

I hope Maine’s experience becomes a positive template for other states.