Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s statement regarding ranked-choice voting ballot-marking guidance:

When ranked-choice voting was first put into use in the June 2018 primary, our office created a webpage of resource materials to help voters understand the new voting method. Since then, we have regularly updated this page in response to voter input and with information about the elections at hand.

One of the resources on our webpage is a series of “sample marked ballots,” which show voters all the ways they can choose to mark a ranked-choice ballot. The 11 examples include images of what not to do – such as voting for two candidates as your first choice – as well as every combination of acceptable ballot markings that will be counted as valid.

The example marked ballots on our RCV Resources webpage are not instructions, they are examples of ballot markings, to give voters a full understanding of the ranked-choice voting ballot.

The ballot instructions advise voters to “mark one oval” for each candidate they choose because that is all that is necessary to ensure that your vote will be counted for your candidate through all the rounds, unless/until that candidate is eliminated from the race as the lowest vote-getter.

The recent Maine Republican Party flyer mailed out to voters advises voters to fill out all the rankings for a single candidate, filling in all ovals across the ballot. This is not necessary to ensure that your vote for that candidate will be counted in all the rounds, but our example marked ballots show voters that it is still an acceptable way to mark the ballot and will not invalidate their vote.

The mailer has caused significant voter confusion by advising voters to “Vote for President Donald Trump across the ballot in each round,” and states that only this method of marking will make their ballot “complete.” This language is inaccurate and reflects a gross misunderstanding of the ranked-choice voting process.

Voting across the ballot for any candidate is voting for them in each RANKING. Your vote for your candidate as your first choice (filling out only the first-choice ranking oval) carries forward with them in any subsequent ROUNDS unless/until they are eliminated from the race.

The example marked ballot educational materials do not contradict the instructions on the ballot, and in fact have provided peace of mind to voters who are confused by the Maine GOP mailing.

Ultimately, voters need to know this: If you only want to vote for one candidate in a ranked-choice race, the ballot instructs that you mark only the first-choice oval for your candidate. You can also choose to mark the ovals all the way across in every ranking (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice) for your candidate. Both of these markings are valid and will result in your vote being counted for your candidate throughout all the rounds of the ranked-choice voting process, unless/until that candidate is eliminated from the race.