Maine is getting more political coverage than ever before. Republican incumbent Susan Collins is in a tight senate race with Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon. The state also splits its four electoral college votes based on region, and the second congressional district has become a battleground area for the presidential race.

What Ranked-Choice Voting Means in Maine

The state approved ranked-choice voting via referendum in 2016. This referendum allowed voters to rank their 1st choice candidate down to their 5th choice. Voters only need to vote for one candidate, but they will have the option to vote for more.

Maine citizens created the referendum as a means to allow voters to choose candidates that they fully agreed with, without fear that their vote would be wasted. In 2010 the Maine Gubernatorial winner only won 37.6% of the vote. The Democratic candidate and the Independent candidate had a combined total of 54.7%. These results shook the state of Maine, especially given that the winner of the election won less than 40% of votes.

Because of this, in Maine currently if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the lowest vote receiving candidate is eliminated. Then the votes are recounted. This process continues until a candidate can be declared the winner.

How Ranked-Choice Voting Could Impact the Senate Race

Maine candidates sara gideon next to susan collins
Sara Gideon and Susan Collins via The AP

In a poll conducted by Emerson College, Gideon leads with 48% of anticipated voted, compared to Collins’ 44%. But the important votes for ranked-choice are the Independent votes. Maine is one of the only states to have an Independent Senator with a strong Independent party.

Currently, Emerson predicts that the Independent candidates will receive 10% of the vote. If these voters use ranked-choice voting it has the potential to shift the outcome of the entire election.

Independent Maine Senator Angus King caucuses with the Democratic party, and the Independent party tends to lean more progressive. If Independent voters in Maine decide use their option for ranked-choice voting it could be positive for candidates like Gideon.

The question for this race, however, is whether voters even decide to use ranked-choice voting. If voters only vote for one candidate, this could be an even closer race which leans toward Collins.

How Ranked-Choice Voting could Impact the Presidential Race

In the 2016 election the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, won 5.1% of the vote, and the Independent candidate, Jill Stein, won 1.9% of the vote.

If Independent and Libertarian voters decide to use ranked-choice voting this could drastically shift the outcome of the election. President Trump won the majority of counties in Maine’s second congressional district in 2016. But the addition of ranked-choice voting could change how this plays out dramatically as neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump won 50% of the state’s votes in 2016.

Maine’s new ranked-choice voting system says that if no candidate earns a majority of 50% then the lowest voted candidate will be removed until a winner can be determined. This introduction of ranked-choice voting could impact the second congressional district. It likely will not impact the first congressional district, which consistently votes democratic.

The individual races in Maine this year are likely going to come down to whether or not Maine voters decide to make use of their ability to have ranked-choice voting.


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  • Olivia McCormack

    Olivia McCormack is a senior journalism major and history minor at American University in Washington, DC. She fell in love with communications through her mental health advocacy and education. Her dream is to be a Vanna White-eque 1960s weather girl, but in this economy will settle for the high paying career field of journalism.