A method that Alaska voters are being asked to approve — Ballot Measure 2 — is what will likely cost Sen. Susan Collins of Maine her seat in November.
Ranked choice voting and the expected flood of mail-in ballots from Democrats are a toxic combination to Collins and other Republicans in Maine this year.
With Maine’s new ranked choice voting, Collins will need a greater than 50 percent majority, rather than a plurality, to win her fifth term in office. That’s because there is not just a Democrat and Republican in the race, but also two independents.
Right now, Collins is trailing Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat by over 6 percent, according to a compilation of polls at RealClearPolitics.
The ranked-choice voting has never been used in a Maine U.S. Senate race. It’s a complicated system that has voters vote for who they want most, second most, and so on, and it’s a system that relies on machines to count the “instant run-off.” When a candidate reaches more than 50 percent, the race is over.
Some have called it a race to the bottom; others say it simply favors Democrats.
It’s what is proposed for Alaska voters with Ballot Measure 2. Led by former Walker Chief of Staff Scott Kendall, Ballot Measure 2 is funded and pushed by the same groups that convinced Maine voters in 2016 to go for the new way of voting.
Maine Republicans are challenging the legality of it, but the ballots have now been printed. Maine’s Democrat Secretary of State had invalidated enough signatures on a repeal initiative to prevent Republicans from stopping the ranked-choice method from being used in this presidential cycle. Court challenges on that action were not enough to stop the Democrats from going forward.
This bodes poorly for Sen. Collins. Six years ago, she won with nearly 70 percent of the vote. But now, she is underwater with voters because President Donald Trump’s unpopularity with some Maine voters puts that state in the “leans Biden” category. Democrats have targeted this state as a “pick up” for them for the Senate seat.
Maine voters have one cycle of experience with the ranked-choice system, and Republicans have already been on the losing end because of the way Republicans vote — many of them won’t rank candidates.
In 2018, a Maine legislative race that was won by Bruce Poliquin with over 46 percent of the vote, ended up flipping to Democrats after the ranked choice tally was completed. Democratic Rep. Jared Golden didn’t have enough “first choice” votes but ended up with enough “second choice” votes to overtake Poliquin and get just over 50 percent of the vote. The “second choice” candidate won the race.
That is what is expected to happen on Nov. 3 in the U.S. Senate race.
One way the ranked-choice ballot disenfranchises Republican voters is because they are “values voters” who only select one candidate, giving Democrats and non-aligned voters who do play the ranking system a structural advantage.
For example, Republicans who are pro-life voters will not choose a pro-abortion candidate as their second or third choice. Therefore, they get just one shot at the ballot, while those who play the ballot with more choices have their votes counted more than once.
Alaskans will be asked in November by Outside interests to adopt the system in Alaska. Republicans — and also Democrats like former State Sen. Johnny Ellis and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich — have come out in opposition to Ballot Measure 2.