Maine Republicans will instead use the first round of voting to allocate delegates rather than running the ranked-choice tabulations.
A person arrives Wednesday before Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Hialeah, Florida. Credit: Lynne Sladky / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Republican Party will ignore ranked-choice voting in the state’s presidential primary in March 2024, the first time that parties here will be able to use the method to pick their nominees.

The party announced its move on Thursday after notifying the Republican National Committee. While ranked-choice tabulations are mandated under Maine law in races with three or more candidates, the parties determine nominating criteria. Republicans here will therefore use only the first round of voting to allocate delegates even though the public will see later rounds.

“They might as well not even waste Mainers’ hard earned tax dollars to run the tabulations,” Joel Stetkis, the chair of the Maine Republican Party, said of the secretary of state’s office in a statement.

Maine became the first state to use ranked-choice voting in 2018. At that time, it applied to state and federal primaries as well as general elections for Congress. A year later, the Democratic-led Legislature expanded it to presidential elections beginning in 2020, but a procedural move from Gov. Janet Mills delayed its effect on presidential primaries.

Ranked-choice voting had little effect on the 2020 race between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. While those two are respectively on track to capture the 2024 Democratic and Republican nominations, Trump still faces a crowded primary field.

The Maine party’s move was no surprise given Republicans’ animosity toward ranked-choice voting. In 2018, Democrat Jared Golden ousted then-U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District despite trailing Poliquin in the first round. Golden benefited from a large share of second-choice votes from those who ranked little-known independents first.

That helped to bake in partisan division on the voting method that was observed as early as 2018. Nearly 81 percent of Democrats wanted to expand ranked-choice voting and 72 percent of Republicans wanted to stop using it altogether in an exit poll conducted that year by the Bangor Daily News and the electoral reform group FairVote.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...