The vote I have in mind will not decide who controls the US Senate, since neither of the state’s two senators is on the ballot this year. Instead, the issue at stake in Question 5 (a citizen-initiated referendum) is whether Maine will adopt a system called ranked-choice voting (RCV) in all its elections. If they approve the measure, Maine voters will have a unique opportunity to showcase the transformative potential of US democracy and to send a much-needed signal for reform at a crucial moment.
In RCV, voters select not just one candidate, but a list of candidates in order of preference. If no candidate gets a majority of first-preference votes when tabulating the results, the least popular candidate is eliminated and the second-preference votes of his or her supporters are redistributed to the other candidates. The process continues until someone gets a majority.