Here's how ranked-choice voting worked in Maine

Could ranked-choice voting work in the rest of America?

by Alexandra Jaffe
Jun 21 2018, 9:42pm

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills was finally named Democratic nominee for governor in the state — more than a week after voters went to the polls.

The count took an abnormally long time because it was Maine’s first time using something called “ranked-choice” voting to choose its party nominees.

The ranked-choice system has voters rate every candidate on the ballot in order of preference. If no candidate tops 50 percent of first-place votes after the first count, the lowest first-place vote-getter is knocked out of the race, and their supporters’ second-place votes are distributed among the remaining candidates.

This process continues, until one candidate receives 50 percent of the first-place votes in the race.

It’s an unusual form of voting only in use in a handful of municipal races nationwide; Maine was the first to use it statewide. And the unusual system prompted two underdogs in the Democratic primary race for governor to take an unusual tactic in the race and team up, endorsing each other for second place in an attempt to leapfrog the rest of the pack and gain the nomination.

Progressive lobbyist Betsy Sweet and former House Speaker Mark Eves spent the final days of the race campaigning together, urging their own supporters to pick them first on the ballot and their opponent second, in hopes that negative attacks between the two frontrunners — Mills and attorney Adam Cote — would turn their respective supporters off from each other.

VICE News spent the weekend with Sweet and Eves to see the tactic in action.

This segment originally aired June 12, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.