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First ranked-choice presidential vote will be in Maine this fall, state's top court decides

There is no more doubt: Ranked-choice voting will be used for the first time in a presidential election this year.

Voters in Maine will be allowed to list their candidates in order of preference, and its four electoral votes will only be awarded to those who get a majority's support, under a decision Tuesday from the state Supreme Court.

The ruling is a huge symbolic victory for advocates of ranked elections, who view them as a magic formula for improving democracy by reducing the major parties' influence, encouraging more consensus-building campaigns, promoting the prospects of outsiders — and guaranteeing winners can claim a mandate because they have been endorsed by most voters.

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Maine, where voters were the first the use ranked-choice voting in a federal election, will print its 2020 election ballots with RCV for the presidential contest.

Ranked-choice voting remains on Maine ballot, but it's not over yet

After months of back and forth, Maine will print ballots with ranked-choice voting for president this fall. But uncertainty about its use remains.

Democratic Secretary of State Matt Dunlap made the decision to start the presses on Tuesday. He acted hours after the state Supreme Court temporarily blocked the effort to get a referendum opposing presidential ranked-choice voting on the ballot in November, which would have prevented the use of the alternate election system in the 2020 contest.

Maine has been a voting reform trailblazer for years. In 2016, it became the first state to have ranked elections for almost all federal and state positions. If the most recent ruling stands, the state will also be the first to use so-called RCV to award electoral votes — a moment champions of the system eye as a watershed for their cause.

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Supports of ranked-choice voting in Massachusetts rallied to support the alternative voting method in July.

As ranked-choice voting gains acceptance, critics push back

Most Americans are accustomed to a winner-take-all voting process, making one, decisive choice between a multitude of candidates.

Ranked-choice voting changes the standard methodology. RCV allows voters to rank multiple candidates in order of personal preference, replacing a "plurality winner" system with a vastly different election process that hasn't been widely seen in the United States for some time.

This past year, ranked-choice voting has been having a sort of coming-out party. It was used in Democratic presidential primaries in four states as well as the Nevada caucuses. And referendums instituting ranked-choice voting are on the ballot this fall in five cities and three states — Alaska, Massachusetts and North Dakota.

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