AUGUSTA, Maine — If Gov. Janet Mills signs the law, Mainers will be the first in the country to choose presidential candidates by ranked-choice voting.
On Monday, the Legislature gave final passage to a bill that would use ranked-choice in the presidential primary in March. That will be the first time in 20 years the state has held a presidential primary.
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap says the process will be similar to Maine’s two ranked-choice elections last year. The bill waiting for action by the governor would also allow ranked-choice to be used in the November general election for president.
There is a question about money to pay for the RCV count, because the bill that passed the Legislature didn’t include any funding. Secretary Dunlap estimates the cost of the primary at $100,000, and Senate President Troy Jackson says lawmakers will have to vote to provide the money this winter.
Dunlap says that if the RCV primary vote happens, it’s sure to generate tremendous interest, in part because of the crowded Democratic primary field, and the fact it may take a week to find the result of the vote.
"I think everyone will be interested to see how this works," Dunlap said. "There has been talk of making use of ranked-choice voting in other jurisdictions this will be a national flavor for ranked-choice voting, so I think there will be attention paid to it."
There's already speculation about how an RCV primary vote could turn out. Jackson, who ran the Bernie Sanders campaign in Maine in 2016, says he doesn’t know if the voting method would favor any particular candidate.
"I’m sure it's going to affect some candidates negatively, some positively," Jackson said, "but that will be for some to determine, but at least now, five months out, they know the rules of the game."
Gov. Mills now has nine days to decide whether to sign that ranked-choice primary bill into law. Mills' own primary last year was Maine’s first use of ranked-choice voting, which was passed twice by Mainers in statewide referendums.