Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 1, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, November 1, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, November 1, 2018
Puffin wins: ranked choice voting explained
Participants fill out sample ballots to elect a state symbol at a League of Women Voters workshop on ranked choice voting October 24 in Castine.
by Anne Berleant
Faced with the first general election to use ranked choice voting, the League of Women Voters of Maine is working to inform citizens what this will mean in the voting booth.
For nine people attending an information session at Witherle Memorial Library in Castine, this meant a mock vote for a new state symbol, using the new system.
Ann Luther, LWVME treasurer, passed out ballot slips with four rows of candidates (puffin, blueberry, pine tree and moose) and four columns marked 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Choice. Voters gave each candidate one mark, 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th Choice, making for one mark in each of the four columns.
Then came the fun part. The ballots were sorted by 1st choice candidate and tallied. For an outright win in ranked choice voting, a candidate must receive over 50 percent of 1st choice votes. Here, puffin received four votes, pine tree received three votes, moose received two votes and blueberry zero votes. So, with no candidate winning 50 percent of the votes, the ballots listing the candidate with the fewest amount of 1st choice votes (moose, because there were no 1st choice blueberry ballots) are redistributed by their 2nd choices. One ballot listed puffin and one listed pine tree as 2nd choice. So, one vote was added to each of those candidates, bringing puffin to five votes and pine tree to four votes. Puffin, with over 50 percent of the votes, wins.
Other important information:
Ranked choice voting will be used ONLY for U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives elections. A successful lawsuit citing the Maine Constitution nullified ranked choice voting in state general elections.
If a ballot is marked with two choices for one candidate, the scanner will reject it and the voter can re-do the ballot. If the ballot is being hand counted, it will be invalid for all votes after 1st Choice for that slate of candidates. If the double marking was in the 1st Choice column, it would be invalid for all votes for that slate of candidates. The ballot is still valid for the remaining races.
And remember, ranked choice voting can’t be that hard. As Luther reminded those present, Australia has used this method to elect its parliament for the last 100 years.
Australia has used this method to elect its parliament for the last 100 years.