Maine, one of the birthplaces of the ranked-choice voting movement, is facing pushback from Republicans who don't want it in the fall presidential election.
Earlier this month the state Republican Party filed paperwork proposing a referendum in November on repealing a law, enacted less than a year ago, allowing Mainers to be the country's only 2020 voters who list their presidential choices in order of preference — with third-party candidate support in all likelihood redistributed to the major party nominees.
Simply gathering the required 63,000 signatures in the next three months would halt the use of so-called RCV on the presidential line in November — which would represent a major setback for an alternative voting system that's been gaining significant national acceptance in recent years.
Ranked-choice voting just made it big in the biggest town for making it — New York City. And supporters of this way of conducting elections hope to use the victory there to spread it, well, everywhere.
With more than 90 percent of the precincts reporting Wednesday morning, almost three-quarters of voters (73.5 percent) endorsed bringing ranked-choice voting to the nation's biggest city. The new system, which allows people to rank as many as five candidates in order of preference, will be used in primary and special elections beginning with the races in 2021 for mayor, city council and several other municipal offices.
Known as RCV and also the instant-runoff system, ranking candidates has become one of the big election-improvement darlings of the democracy reform movement.
Less sweeping measures for improving governance were on ballots in Maine, Kansas and Denver, and all of them succeeded.
Last year was a really good year for placing democracy reform in the hands of the electorate. This year, not so much.
In the 2018 midterms, ballot proposals adopted in more than a dozen states and cities expanded the use of automatic voter registration, independent redistricting commissions, public financing of campaigns and other democracy reform proposals.
Next week's off-year election will see only a small roster of contests with an expansion of democracy itself on the ballot, and most have relatively narrow scope and limited reach.
But good-government advocates hope a wave of victories creates momentum for a more ambitious roster of proposals to get spots on the ballot alongside the 2020 presidential election.
And while the roster of pro-democracy choices may be limited this Nov. 5, the overall number of direct-democracy opportunities is large. Not since 2007 have so many ballot measures (three dozen) gone before voters in an odd-numbered year, according to Ballotpedia.
Below are the eight items on the ballot next week that good-government advocates are watching most intently — listed alphabetically by where the voting will take place. Four are initiatives in big cities and two are statewide referenda. The others are partisan elections for offices where the future of a reliable and relatable democracy is part of what's in the offing.
The prospects for ranked-choice voting are uncertain in a handful of states that had shown momentum as the fall begins and the 2020 campaign shifts into a more intense gear.
Just days ago, the future looked brighter for one of the more revolutionary parts of the democracy reform agenda, which seeks in part to grow consensus-building and shrink polarization in politics: holding elections where voters list all the candidates they can live with in order of preference, with the winner often emerging as a person ranked close to the top on the most number of ballots.
The biggest potential setback since has come in Iowa, where Democrats hoped to couple a debut for ranked-choice voting in presidential elections with the rollout of online participation in the 2020 caucuses.
But last week national party leaders rejected the proposals from Iowa and Nevada to allow remote participation, concluding that concerns the fledgling systems could be hacked outweighed the desire to make it easier for people to participate.