A bill to allow Maine municipalities the choice to adopt ranked-choice voting has passed the state House.
The bill now heads to the state Senate, after passing the House 75-61 on Tuesday, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Rather than pick just one candidate, voters would get to rank several in order of preference. Even if a voter’s top choice doesn’t have enough support to win, their rankings of other candidates still play a role in determining the victor.
Rep. Seth Berry, a Democrat from Bowdoinham and the bill’s sponsor, said it would expand ranked-choice voting to municipalities that do not have a charter outlining election decisions. During elections, unchartered towns follow state law, which requires that a winner be chosen by plurality. That means the candidate with the most votes wins, even if they don’t get more than 50 percent.
“It does not require any municipality to do anything,” Berry said. “We can give local control to those 413 unchartered municipalities.”
In order to start using ranked-choice voting, municipalities must adopt the method during a public meeting at least 180 days before the election in which it would be used.
Opponents of the bill like Republican lawmaker Rep. Jonathan Connor of Lewiston said it would give increasing control to political operatives, the newspaper reported.
Ranked-choice voting is used in state primary elections and federal elections. But Maine’s constitution requires general elections for the legislature and governor be decided by a plurality of voters, the newspaper reported.