On Tuesday, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court cleared the way for the usage of ranked-choice voting in the state this November for the presidential race. When ranked-choice voting is used, voters list candidates in order of preference on their ballot. If no candidate wins an outright majority of the topline, first-preference votes, then the candidate with the lowest level of first-preference votes is removed from the equation and their supporters’ second-preference votes are distributed accordingly. Using ranked-choice voting in the presidential race could mean that the support of third-party voters will be able to go towards major party candidates if initial final results are close.
The Republican Party had been leading an effort to block the usage of ranked-choice voting in the presidential race in Maine via a ballot referendum that would have put the question of whether to use the process in presidential contests on the ballot this November. A previous lower-court ruling upheld enough signatures to apparently allow for that initiative to appear on the ballot and concurrently postpone the actual implementation of ranked-choice voting, but Maine’s highest court overruled that conclusion and invalidated enough signatures to bring the total below the number needed to get the initiative on the ballot.
The Republican Party initially brought their case to court after the Secretary of State rejected their proposed ballot referendum on the usage of ranked-choice voting, but after that earlier ruling in the GOP’s favor, their opponents appealed. Ranked-choice voting has already been used in Maine for elections other than the presidential race, and it will be used again this November. The U.S. Senate candidate in the state who is running under the banner of the Green Party has directly admonished her supporters to list Democratic contender Sara Gideon as their second choice, thereby clearing the way for their support to go to Gideon if she doesn’t initially win a majority of the support.
The expansion of ranked-choice voting in Maine is one of a number of significant rulings on behalf of voting rights across the country as the general election has gotten closer. In Pennsylvania, for example, the state’s highest court recently extended the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots to the third day after Election Day, although mail-in ballots still must be postmarked by Election Day. The extension of the deadline compensates for potential Postal Service slowdowns.