AUGUSTA, Maine (CN) – In the first statewide execution of ranked-choice voting, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills won the gubernatorial nomination for the Democrats on Wednesday with 54 percent of the vote.
Mills will face Republican candidate Shawn Moody, who received a majority of the first-round votes during the June 12 primary, making ranked-choice tabulation unnecessary.
There is no incumbent in the November race as Republican Governor Paul LePage has exhausted term limits.
“I’m deeply honored to accept this nomination, and I’m so excited to get to work to win the general election,” Mills said in a statement.
Adam Cote, who got about 9,000 fewer votes than Mills in the primary, called for party unity after the results were announced.
“Janet Mills won this race,” Cote said in a statement. “She was strong everywhere across the state, as her vote totals show. Our primary is over and it is time for all Democrats and all Mainers who want to see a better future for our state to get involved and help Janet run the strongest campaign possible and win in November.”
Another nomination finalized in last week’s race was the selection of Jared Golden as the Democratic candidate for a U.S. representative in Congressional District 2.
The June 12 primary was the first election in which a state used ranked-choice voting for all races with three or more candidates.
Maine voters approved ranked-choice voting in November 2016 after the winners of eight of the last 10 gubernatorial elections won with less than a majority of the vote. Efforts to enact the system picked up steam with the election of LePage, who won with only 37.6 percent in his first of two elections.
In ranked-choice voting, voters rank the candidates based on their preference. If no candidate received a majority of the votes, then the votes for the lowest-performing candidate go to whoever was chosen second on each individual vote. The process continues, eliminating low-scoring candidates until one candidate has the majority of the vote.
While Maine became the first state to approve ranked-choice voting at the state level, the system has been used in municipal elections across the country, including in San Francisco; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Portland, Maine.
Since the 2016 referendum vote, the law has faced multiple challenges. State lawmakers passed a law to delay implementation of the law until 2021, but a Superior Court judge blocked the delay on April 3. Two weeks later, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rejected a challenge by the Republican-controlled state Senate.
Maine voters also blocked efforts by the state Legislature to delay implementation when they passed the so-called People’s Veto during the June 12 vote with 54 percent. Ranked-choice voting was permitted for the state’s primaries, but Maine will need to amend its Constitution to use the system in the general election, because the Constitution stipulates that candidates win with a plurality of votes.