November 8, 2016, Maine became the first state to adopt ranked choice voting for the election of its governor, members of Congress, and state legislature. Ranked choice voting has been used to elect the mayor of its largest city, Portland, since 2011.
Maine has a long history of independent thinkers in local, state, and national offices. The state also has a large number of independent voters that have elected governors, U.S. senators, and state legislatures from a variety of parties. Maine has consistently had multi-candidate races for governor.
Maine Ballot Initiative
Maine electoral reformers delivered over 70,000 signatures, mostly gathered by volunteers, to the Maine Secretary of State in Augusta. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, a grassroots group of Maine citizens, garnered broad support from across the political spectrum, all with a singular focus: uphold majority rule and give voters a stronger voice in elections.
The signatures put the citizens initiative for ranked choice voting (RCV, also called instant runoff voting) on the ballot for the November 2016 general election. Maine voted in favor of "Question 5" for ranked choice voting by a 52% majority. The first use of RCV for all state and congressional primary and general elections will happen in 2018.
Use in Portland, Maine
Ranked choice voting was used for the first time in Portland, Maine to elect the mayor in November 2011. The city voted to use ranked choice voting in November 2010 at the same time they decided to have an elected rather than an appointed mayor position. The position of Mayor in Portland had not been elected for 88 years.
The high interest in the election made it very competitive, with 15 candidates running and voter turnout about 50% higher than election officials predicted. All evidence suggests voters adjusted well to the new ballot, and reactions to the use of RCV were overwhelmingly positive.
FairVote staff members Drew Spencer Penrose and Elizabeth Hudler spoke with Mayor Mike Brennan in the summer of 2013. He described how the use of ranked choice voting made his and the other candidates' campaigns more positive and inclusive, while giving every voter a stake in the outcome.