Maine Voters Can Cast Their Ballots Using Ranked-Choice Voting for 1st Time

Voters in Portland, Maine casted their absentee ballots last month.
Voters in Portland, Maine casted their absentee ballots last month.Getty Images

Experts anticipate ranked-choice voting to play a significant role in Maine's 2020 Senate race.

What is ranked-choice voting? For the first time in U.S. history, Maine voters are using the new system to cast their ballot for the next President of the United States.

Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, allows voters to choose candidates in order of preference on the ballot, if they choose to do so. For example, voters can choose a first, second and third choice – up to as many choices as there are candidates on the ballot – or they can opt to select only a single candidate, which would become their first and only choice.

If a candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, ranked-choice tabulation will not come into play. However, if that isn’t the case, the candidate who receives the least votes will be eliminated, and the voters that made the eliminated candidate their first choice will instead have their votes counted toward their second-ranked choice. That method of vote counting will continue until the winner is determined.

More significantly than the presidential election, many experts believe ranked-choice voting may play a key role in the Maine 2020 Senate race.

Maine is home to one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country, and Maine voters can choose to employ ranked-choice voting on their ballot for the Senate election. Currently, it appears to be a matchup between Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic challenger Sara Gideon.

However, if it does come down to ranked-choice voting, the ballot may not be in for up to two weeks. That’s how long it could take for the counting to be completed, Maine Department of the Secretary of State spokesperson Kristen Muszynski told WGME.