In a country dominated by two political parties, voting for an independent third-party candidate is often seen as a vote wasted. But that won’t be the case for voters in Maine where the state’s Supreme Judicial Court just upheld the use of ranked-choice voting for its presidential and congressional races.
With ranked-choice voting, citizens are permitted to rank candidates from most to least favorite rather than having to choose a single candidate. To win a ranked-choice vote, a mandate is required to earn a majority of the votes, not just a plurality. Should there be no candidate with a majority of the votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is tossed out of the running, and the votes are tallied again. This time, however, the voters whose favorite candidate was just tossed out will now have their second choice count as their vote. This process continues until one candidate has earned at least 50 percent of the votes.
So, what are the potential benefits of ranked-choice voting? According to supporters of it, ranked-choice voting pushes races away from polarizing winner-takes-all campaigns and allows people to support independent and third-party candidates while still being able to vote for the Democratic or Republican Party nominee if they so choose.
As the elections come closer, it will be curious to see whether ranked-choice voting has an effect on the outcome.