Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins, left, faces a troublesome problem from Democratic Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

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Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins, left, faces a troublesome problem from Democratic Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

One of this November’s closest and highest-profile U.S. Senate races may activate a novel method of voting within the state of Maine.

There, Republican incumbent Susan Collins is defending her seat towards Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon, in addition to two independents. Polls present a detailed contest between Collins, who’s searching for her fifth time period, and the well-funded Gideon.

And Maine voters will use the ranked choice voting system, which permits them to rank their decisions among the many 4 Senate candidates.

To somebody not accustomed to the method, it sounds complicated. But Cara McCormick, cofounder of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, says it’s one thing most of us are accustomed to.

“We rank choices in our everyday life all the time,” she says. “We’re always saying, you know, ‘If they don’t have the mint chocolate chip ice cream, can you please get me the rocky road?’ ” In phrases of voting, “It allows people to really express their full range of opinions and preferences about all of the candidates running. And it’s definitely working for us in Maine. And I think it’s definitely encouraging more positive campaigns.”

The poll voters will use is fairly easy, says Kathleen Montejo, metropolis clerk in Lewiston, Maine.

“Once folks look at it, it does seem to be fairly intuitive, and you fill in the little bubble,” she says. “It’s almost like taking the SAT test, you know, from years ago. And you just fill in the little bubbles.”

Montejo says as soon as voters see it, their response is, “‘Oh, this isn’t as bad as I was expecting. This seems to be pretty straightforward and pretty simple.’ “

The ranked selection voting system was first used within the state’s 2018 federal elections, so Maine voters have gotten extra snug and accustomed to the method.

But Montejo says many nonetheless have questions. “The No. 1 question we always get from folks is, ‘Do I have to rank every candidate? Or if I just rank my No. 1 first choice and do not rank the other candidates, will my vote still count?’ And the answer is yes.”

Ranked selection voting solely comes into play if no candidate receives a majority — that’s, 50% plus one vote. That occurred in 2018 in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin acquired a plurality however not a majority, and after voters’ second decisions had been counted, Democrat Jared Golden gained the seat.

In this yr’s U.S. Senate race, one candidate, impartial Lisa Savage, has used ranked selection voting in her messaging, telling voters to make her their first selection and the Democrat Gideon their second selection.

University of Maine political science professor Mark Brewer says that is problematic for Collins.

“In a ranked choice voting scheme, assuming that Savage’s supporters list Gideon second, which Savage is asking them to do, this now turns into a disadvantage for Collins,” he says.

But it is unclear how the votes for the 2 impartial candidates will break, with current polls displaying every with roughly the identical share of the vote.

In an announcement, the Collins marketing campaign says “there is one clear choice” and it’s encouraging voters to decide on Collins as their first selection.

Republicans within the state continue to challenge ranked selection voting in courtroom, as a result of it additionally applies to the presidential race.

Maine offers an electoral vote to the winners of every of the state’s two congressional districts. And whereas polls present Democrat Joe Biden with a lead within the state general, within the rural 2nd district it is a a lot nearer race, says Anna Kellar, govt director of the League of Women Voters of Maine.

“The race between Biden and [President] Trump in that district is neck and neck,” she says. “So if neither gets a majority, the votes cast for a third party or independent candidate may end up playing a role. But instead of being spoilers, those candidates, the second choices will end up probably deciding the vote.”

So Maine’s ranked selection voting system may probably have an impact not solely on the make-up of the U.S. Senate — however even, conceivably, who wins the presidency.

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