User Thunderforge recently remarked: (emphasis mine)

Of interest, Maine approved a ballot measure for Instant Runoff Voting for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative. Note that President will still be decided using the traditional voting method.

Is there a specific legal reason (state or federal constitutional violation, for example) why the US presidency was not included?

  • Yes, Article 2 and the 12th Amendment
    – user9790
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 17:37
  • 3
    I don't think either of those have any influence on the way the state decides on electors. I'm asking why Maine (or some other state) couldn't use IRV to decide who wins the state, and then participate in the electoral college as mandated by the (federal) constitution. Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 17:41

4 Answers 4


The states get to determine the method for selecting how their electoral votes are selected or allocated. In reading the applicable federal laws and codes, I'm not seeing anything that would have prevented them from choosing their presidential and vice-presidential choices in such a manner.

Maine and Nebraska already spit their votes, contrary to how most states do it, I can't imagine that this would be that much different.

The official U.S. Electoral College web site


For the 2020 Presidential election, ranked-choice voting was used in Maine.

Maine became the first state to use ranked-choice voting for a presidential general election, with voters able to rank their preferred candidates on the ballot. Majorities were reached in the first round of voting statewide and in each congressional district, so ranked-choice voting tabulation was not required.


Alternative voting systems such as IRV cannot work correctly under the current system that uses the Electoral College. Essentially each State picks a winner for President and then the electors actually do the voting using the traditional first-past-the-post voting system. This would defeat what most alternate voting systems such as IRV are supposed to accomplish.

Imagine if the Green Party ended up winning in Main using the IRV system, but the rest of the electors from all other States were for Democrat or Republican. It would just take votes away from the Democrats and help the Republicans win. So in the end it wouldn't have accomplished what it was supposed to do.

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    Maine seems to think it will work, See, Ranked choice voting in Maine a go for presidential election.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 18:59
  • It successfully prevents 3rd party spoiler candidates from taking votes away from the Democrat or Republican parties, so long as things don't get to the point where those 3rd party candidates could actually win. If one of them actually did win, voters would realize that such a victory would actually just take votes away from the two parties in the Electoral College, creating the exact same situation as before when someone voted for a 3rd party candidate. Voters would then resume tactical voting for the two parties ONLY all over again to prevent this from happening. Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 16:05

Maine chooses presidential electors at two different levels:

  • Each congressional district selects one elector.

  • Two more electors are selected state-wide.

Each voter votes just once for president, and that vote affects both the congressional-district selection and the state-wide selection.

If Maine were to use "instant-runoff" voting for president, it could be very confusing. Should voters optimize their sorting of the candidates to affect the congressional district selection, or the state-wide selection?

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    I would imagine you could just have the runoff occur in each district and statewide. Isn't the intention of instant runoff voting that people simply rank candidates in the order they would prefer them to be elected? It seems like making strategic voting harder would actually be a plus that would make the results a better representation of voters' true preferences
    – divibisan
    Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 14:37
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    Some confusion could come from the fact that IRV fails the Consistency Criterion, where it's theoretically possible for a candidate to win in both of Maine's districts but lose the statewide vote.
    – dan04
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 19:21

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