Report: The Failed Experiment of Ranked-Choice Voting

A Case Study of Maine and Analysis of 96 Other Jurisdictions


A movement currently sparking interest across the country, including in Alaska, is called ranked-choice voting (RCV), also known as instant run-off voting (IRV). Several U.S. municipalities have experimented with ranked-choice voting for more than a decade. For example, the City of San Francisco, California has been using ranked-choice voting since 2004.[1] Via a 2016 ballot initiative, Maine launched a bold experiment by becoming the first state to adopt ranked-choice voting statewide. This case study has been created using data previously compiled by the Maine Policy Institute from those municipal elections and Maine. The results analyzed are from 96 elections in the U.S. that triggered ranked-choice voting. Put differently, these election results were compiled from 96 races where more than one round of tabulation occurred.

Using this data, we can examine and draw conclusions about ranked-choice voting and compare Maine’s most recent experience with other jurisdictions to identify patterns. The goal of this report is to analyze the history, claims, and mechanisms of ranked-choice voting in an attempt to understand how the system works, its merits and shortcomings, and how it compares to plurality elections and other voting systems.

Click here to read the full report.