By Christopher Cousins
Maine's secretary of state has authenticated signatures on a citizen initiative to implement ranked-choice voting in Maine, which means voters will decide whether to implement the system at the polls in November 2016.
More than 70,000 signatures in support of the initiative from registered Maine voters, which have been collected over the past year, were submitted in October. Under the proposal from Ranked Choice Voting Maine, the state would become the first in the nation to fully use a ranked-choice ballot system for its elections.
Ranked-choice voting would allow voters to rank candidates in multi-candidate races in order of preference creating an "instant runoff" when no single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the total vote. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of all votes cast, the candidate with the lowest number of top vote choices is eliminated and an instant runoff takes place between the remaining candidates, counting second place and if necessary third place votes to see which candidate has the highest total number of votes to become the winner.
Proponents argue that the system will lead to winning candidates who have broader support and will reduce negative campaign strategies because candidates have to appeal to more than just their base supporters. If enacted by voters in November 2016, ranked-choice voting would apply to all primary and general elections for the Legislature, the U.S. House and Senate and governor.
"The eagerness that tens of thousands of people across Maine showed by signing our petitions demonstrates that people believe ranked-choice voting is a better way to elect our leaders," said former independent state Sen. Dick Woodbury, who leads the campaign. "Now that we have earned a spot on the November 2016 ballot, we're turning our attention to talking with more Mainers and building our broad-based coalition of citizens who want more civil campaigns and better government."
The ranked-choice voting referendum is one of several statewide questions that could be on the 2016 ballot because of citizen initiatives.
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