Princeton Election Consortium

Innovations in democracy since 2004

Oct 21: Biden 357 EV (D+5.4% from toss-up), Senate 53 D, 47 R (D+4.8%), House control D+5.0%
Moneyball states: President NV AZ PA, Senate AK MT IA, Legislatures KS TX NC

Ranked-choice voting wins in court in Maine

August 14th, 2020, 6:11pm by Sam Wang


This afternoon, Judge Lance Walker issued his order in a court case that affects this November’s Senate election. This comes surprisingly fast, just one day after the evidentiary hearing. He finds that plaintiffs, four supporters of Senator Susan Collins, have suffered no constitutional injury from ranked-choice voting. His order gets pretty tart with the plaintiffs, and is worth a full read, here. Our work is quoted! See our amicus brief. (Interestingly, Princeton faculty were on both sides of the case.)

Consequently, supporters of minor-party candidates will still have the option (as they did before this lawsuit) to reassign their vote to either of the two major-party candidates, Sara Gideon (D) or Susan Collins (R). In principle, every voter in Maine will have a say between which of these two is the Senator next year – without risking the possibility of throwing away their vote.

September 8th: Another challenge to ranked-choice voting, this one in the Maine Supreme Court, has also failed. Consequently ranked-choice voting will be used, as planned, for the Presidential race in Maine. This will be a high-profile example for the whole nation to see!

Tags: governors · Senate

10 Comments so far ↓

  • ArcticStones

    This is good news!

    If we had Ranked-Choice Voting years earlier, Maine would not have been forced to suffer Paul LePlague as governor!

  • 538_Refugee

    ROTFLMAO. It seems the judge and I had the same opinion of that garbage brief offered by the plaintiffs. Sadly for him it was his duty to read it to conclusion.

    “By building his report on the faulty premise that ranking only one candidate or fewer than n-1 candidates is an irrational “failure” to “fully participate,” Professor McCarty has substantially eroded the likelihood that I would ultimately consider his expert opinions dispositive of the merits.”

    While I composed, and then deleted, an opinion on the author and his work, not wanting to go ‘all presidential’ on them, the judge who had to actually read it to conclusion wasn’t as kind.

    “Ultimately, Professor McCarty’s conclusion regarding the ballot data strikes me as equal parts inductive reasoning and condescension.”

    “Because the Expert Report is designed to present Plaintiffs’ legal position as favorably as possible through selective statistical sampling methods, I am free to regard the Report critically and need not accept its representations, or Professor McCarty’s hearing testimony, as undisputed statements of fact.”

    This last quote is kinder than the one I deleted before submitting in the last thread. When the author stated the fee structure and footnoted his opinion might change given ‘new’ data I wasn’t sure if he was distancing himself from the work or soliciting business. Data mining is hard work. You have to get your hoe out and carefully go through the ore. ‘We will hoe ore for you and deliver only the nuggets you want!’

  • Michael L Rosin

    So here’s a mathematical fact. No more than two candidates can capture more than one-third of the popular vote in an election. Any candidate who receives more than one-third of the popular vote in a given round is guaranteed to be in no worse than second place in that round and all subsequent rounds.

    The plaintiffs in this case all support Susan Collins, a major party candidate. Unless somehow Collins fails to win more than one-third of the vote in the first round it doesn’t matter whether or how the plaintiffs cast a second choice ballot. That’s not an equal protection violation. It’s a mathematical consequence of Collins being a major-party candidate who almost certainly will capture more than one-third of the first round vote.

  • Quentin

    Has anyone ever done a game-theoretic analysis of how ranked-choice voting might affect the outcomes of House races in heavily gerrymandered states? Gerrymandering requires the party doing the gerrymandering to engineer a lot of districts that they expect to win by a relatively modest margin. Would ranked-choice voting make those seats more competitive?

  • Alan Cobo-Lewis

    Wait, so Princeton was on both sides of the argument? Interesting

    • Sam Wang

      Indeed we were. Had I been called to testify in person, I wanted somehow to use the fact that both the experts use ranked-choice voting in faculty elections.

    • Robert Merkamp

      Universities are diverse and it’s not uncommon to have faculties with diverse points of view.

  • Bela Lubkin

    This article is suddenly at the top of the seemingly reverse chronological blog roll. I have seen this happen several times before, and am now finally moved to ask why: what is going on here?

    If there was a textual update, it is not obvious. Nor was there a new comment (until this).

    • Sam Wang

      Traffic’s going up, occasionally re-upping news items.

      As it turns out, there is some new information on this topic. Added that.

    • Bela Lubkin

      Thanks. Please do clearly mark any additions to an old article.

      I don’t think old items ‘re-up’ on this blogging system; at least it hasn’t seemed that way. They scroll backwards in time in an expected manner, leaping forward only if you edited the main post, not because of added comments.

Leave a Comment