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'Momentum for Better Elections' as Maine Supreme Court Approves Ranked-Choice Voting for 2018 Elections


'Momentum for Better Elections' as Maine Supreme Court Approves Ranked-Choice Voting for 2018 Elections

Julia Conley, staff writer

Election reform advocates on Wednesday praised a decision by Maine's Supreme Court, upholding the use of ranked-choice voting for the state's upcoming primary elections, saying the ruling demonstrated that the court heeded the demands of Maine voters.


Massively good news. This will spread.


A huge win for democracy. Good for you, Mainers.


Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but Maine’s upcoming use of RCV is for single winner elections such as senator and not for a set of representatives elected at once which is the only way proportional representation can happen. I’d love to see PR in the US too (I’d want to make the entire Senate PR if it were up to me), but for now we are stuck with mostly single winner elections (outside of city council).

In the past I’ve preferred Condercet over IRV (technically both are RCV methods), but now that IRV has momentum and since it is easier to explain to people than Condercet (which have many different finishing algorithms when there is more than one candidate in the Smith set), I lean more towards IRV (as described in this article). IRV is a huge improvement over plurality. I wish my governor (CA) didn’t veto our chance at RCV.

Note that judges matter and Trump’s election has meant a bunch of lousy ones entering their long career on the federal bench. Hopefully we can turn that ship around soon.


Maine has Instant Run-off Voting. It is an add-on to ranked choice voting.

Imagine a ranking of choices for a favorite cookie. Now imagine the voting has no clear favorite cookie.

Instant Runoff formula kicks in and runs the number system until, wallah, there is a victorious favorite cookie.

Sounds trite but it’s just another sucker ploy for oligarchs. They already can afford the candidates. And they will be happy with whatever favorite cookie the system chooses.

Ranking of choices with None of the Above is a step toward advancing democracy into the information age. Instant Run-off like in Maine is actually from the days of hand crank wall telephones.

Contemplate who would have won the last election if None of the Above was included on every ballot in every election. Try an example version, it’s not hooked up but you can see how it works http://autonomousdemocracy.org/Distiller-1/ballot-test-2.html


Democracy is more than a voting technique. Better democracy is an ancient organic tool used by humans to focus distributed intelligence. Democracy is more than yes/no win/lose.


You are correct and proportional includes justice. This particular variant in Maine is IRV, it is a puritanical idea invented to keep people from gaming pure ranking of choices by not voting for a number two or three.

Additionally, in the future, if humanity is to survive, autonomous democracy kept safe from governments, can and will be used to focus distributed human intelligence on selecting and then acting. Two steps that are possible in a modern democracy that escapes the trap of representative democracy.

You are incorrect to assert IRV is a huge improvement without explaining exactly how it negates oligarchic ownership of representative democracy.


Agreed. Lots of aspects to democracy.


I tried the example with None of the Above. It wouldn’t let me rank None of the Above in the middle. Is there a way for a voter to express that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are acceptable, but I’d boycott the election before having my vote assigned to either Clinton or Trump?


Maine can be a rather conservative leaning state. However, this development of Ranked-Choice Voting indicates that even conservatives will support progressive reforms which in turn indicates that progressive reforms transcends the left:right liberal:conservative dichotomy. That’s why I keep saying being progressive isn’t being right or left but rather being forward.


None of the above could be made to move but then would no longer be what it says.

Notice that choosing none of the above instantiates a new candidate and therefore is given five points, in this case of four candidates who receive zero if none of the above is chosen.

If this tool were ever to be used, deciding if None of the Above should be treated as an existing candidate for everyone, as the others are, the idea could be used to practice focus of distributed human intelligence and go with whatever that result is.

This is ranked choice without instant runoff and could theoretically turn out a tie. New elections cost oligarchs billions and each person about 50¢. That is one reason oligarchs push instant runoff and call it ranked choice voting.


Okay, thanks. I’m trying to learn more details about how the different approaches work. My county passed some type of instant runoff for local offices, but I have yet to see how they will implement it. If it’s a paper ballot, people won’t be able to drag and drop anything, and the computer won’t prevent them from filling in whatever number makes sense to them. It doesn’t seem like it should be hard. Maybe letting people fill in zero for all the candidates would be the same as None of the Above. Is there a website somewhere that explains more details about how you can have ranked choice without instant runoff? Someone posted something about range voting here in CD comments years ago, but I can’t find the link now.


You can start with the Wikipedia page (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranked_voting) which I think is pretty good. They have a separate page on IRV (which is advocated by FairVote.org) and links to other systems. In my opinion IRV is the best compromise between being easily explained (important to making it happen as most people are not that mathematically inclined) and being somewhat resistant to strategic voting (giving motivation to not rank by your true preference). There’s no way I would debate this here - there is endless content on other sites.

As far as Ranked Ballots using IRV or any other scheme and a None of the Above option, I haven’t found anything for you but I don’t see any issue with treating NOTA as a regular candidate if this is approved by voters and thus you could put the choice in the middle (and still rank the remaining choices). I hated Clinton as much as any progressive, but I’d definitely have ranked her above Trump who is a disaster. Maybe above Johnson too (I voted for Stein in my safe state of CA).


Thanks, I took a look. The FairVote.org site says ranked choice is the same as instant runoff. I was trying to figure out why you would ever rank choices if the purpose was not an instant runoff. Maybe that would relate to votes for multiple positions, like a board.

It seems important to have a None of the Above option, but it could be satisfied by having voters leave all options blank, or rank zero. I think Garrett Connelly’s example would work for me if I could rank the two candidates I find remotely acceptable, and leave blank or rank zero the other two, then if those are the only two left after the first two rounds of instant runoffs, my blank or zero would count as None of the Above, which still could potentially win.

I have a tiny bit of background in computer science and statistics, and I think I might be good at explaining this to other people if I understood it really well. The simplest version of ranked choice is so intuitive I thought of it myself before I knew others had thought of it first. Now I’m finding the topic has evolved a whole set of jargon of its own, and my state’s Green Party has developed factions over distinctions I don’t understand.


A line of fill-in bubbles next to each candidate is one way. How many bubbles do you fill for each one?

It will work fine 99.999% of the time but none of the above may be excluded. Hmmm, Your inclination toward allowing nuance for none of the above works fine along with multiple bubbles.


Seems like you’d still only need to fill in one bubble for each candidate, as long as you can fill in the same rejection choice for all candidates you want to reject completely, such as zero for example. You might have to call it something besides None of the Above unless you want to make that a row choice as well. Maybe call the column choice None of the Below? Or None of the Rest? Dara’s link to wikipedia talks about ballot exhaustion, meaning you run out of candidates so your blanks don’t count, but I think you’d want to fix that so your blanks count as None of the Above.

For purposes of legislation, maybe all we need to do is require elections to not install anyone in office with less than half the vote, and they can figure out what kind of runoff to have. We might have to also require them to offer None of the Above and honor the result by having a new election with new candidates.


Yes, FairVote uses that terminology RCV = IRV. In the case of Maine, that is what they mean of course. If you get deep into the math of elections, perhaps the better name to use for just the act of ranking choices on a ballot is ranked ballot schemes, of which IRV is one algorithm for producing a single winner and STV is an algorithm for multi-winner elections (equiv. to IRV in single winner). Another algorithm that I initially liked better is known as Condorcet (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condorcet_method) but it has a problem that it isn’t guaranteed to give a winner so there are many options for choosing the winner among the Smith set (the set of all candidates who would win all pair-wise elections against candidates not in the Smith set). There was a great site called Condorcet.org but it is gone now. I liked it because it seemed like a scheme designed from the start to support consensus candidates and it has an interesting attribute - a sufficient statistic to move from a precinct to another place is the pairwise tally of all possible eletions. This means you can have a city like Chicago and if you have 5 candidates (say NOTA, Clinton, Johnson, Stein, Trump), then you have only 54 pairs of numbers to keep track of whereas for IRV, you need a count on every unique ballot (of which there could be 5432 assuming everyone ranked every choice). This gets worse with more candidates but with computers these days, you can just keep a record of every darn ballot in your sufficient statistic if you have to.


You have officially advanced to postgraduate real democracy without adjectives.

ps > There was an actual tie somewhere in the southeast US. in the last six months or so, I believe all the bona fide election officials assembled in a huddle and tossed a coin. How shall we keep working on this? Will I read in the paper about you?


Counting of blanks. That is the crux. Mathematical puritans are irked when one leaves second and third choices blank, they referred to it as “gaming the system.” That was why the idea of an instant runoff was invented. Very goofy.

My impression is you and I are saying "game away and have fun voting.” You have noticed that if you do not pick other less desirable, then you deprive them of points in the grand ending point tally and thus accentuate your real preference. Game away and then some young genius will invent a new twist.

An important part is somehow jump starting voting without government involvement. I tried to convince people in Greece when their democracy said “No.” One lonely voice thousands of miles away attempted to convince them to vote again unofficially when there handsome young leader chickened out.


I think I am offended by their suggestion I’m “gaming” anything by leaving blanks. I accuse officials of gaming voters by not providing a meaningful way to make their choice count.

If only we could convert all the non voters to None of the Above, then we’d be getting somewhere. :slight_smile: