BANGOR – When Mainers head to the polls on Tuesday they will make history as the first state in the nation to use ranked-choice voting for both state and congressional primaries.
Several residents walking downtown on Friday said they were not prepared for ranked-choice voting.
“No, I’m not.”
“I have no clue about that. Sorry.”
“I’m at least somewhat aware of it and I still don’t fully understand it.”
“This is too confusing and it’s not going to lead to the results people are hoping for,” said Peter Baldacci, a Bangor resident and lawyer.
It’s clear from their answers that some people are still confused about the state’s new voting process.
Ranked-choice voting is the result of a citizen’s led initiative from November 2016, but even with two years of work preparing for its use during Tuesday’s June primaries, questions remain.
Voters can rank candidates from first to last, and the ranked-choice voting process only comes into play if no candidate wins an outright majority and is declared the winner.
“If somebody gets a majority we’re done,” said Kyle Bailey, organizer for the Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting.
“But if no candidate gets a majority, we look to see who is in last place — they’re eliminated,” he added later. “But if you voted for that candidate as your first choice your vote is not wasted. We literally pick up your ballot and look to see who is your second choice and we pick up your ballot and move it to the pile for your second choice. So round by round, one candidate is eliminated at a time until we narrow down the field of candidates to two and one wins with a majority.”
That could take some time. Without a majority winner, the ballots must be taken to Augusta to be manually entered into a computer and tallied under the new system, which could delay election results for a week or more.
Mainers will cast ballots about who they think should be on the November ballot for governor, one of the state’s two senate seats and two congressional representatives, as well as seats in the state legislature and other local municipal items, depending on where you live.
The other statewide item is question one, which asks residents if they want to continue with ranked-choice voting.
“I’ve seen what the ballot looks like and it’s really not that complicated,” said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine. “The most complicated thing is the question on the ballot. It’s long and it’s a little convoluted but I’m going to vote yes. Number one because the people already voted on this once and i don’t like, you know, flipping over in the legislature what the people already voted on, plus i think when we have multi-person races it makes more sense.”
Others are voting against continuing ranked-choice voting.
“I understand the thinking behind it and the concerns over the last two gubernatorial elections, but I don’t think it’s the solution,” said Baldacci.
The Maine Secretary of State’s Office and the Committee on Ranked-Choice Voting have been trying to educate residents about the new voting process, and has created a website for those who want to do a little more research before voting on Tuesday.