Ranked-Choice Voting Will Likely Decide Maine’s 2020 Senate Race

Ranked-choice voting will likely decide Maine’s 2020 Senate race between Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) and Senator Susan Collins (R), according to a new poll released today by Colby College that shows the two candidates “nearly in a dead heat.”

Gideon has a three-point lead, with 46.6 percent of the vote, according to the poll. Collins has 43.4 percent of the vote. The poll also found that Independent candidates Lisa Savage and Max Linn have received 4.7 percent and 1.7 percent of the vote respectively.

“After more than $160 million coming in from all corners of the country, massive media attention, and untold hours of hard work, the race will probably come down to an age-old truism,” said Dan Shea, Colby College Government Department chair and lead researcher on the poll. “It’s all about turnout.”

“The race has been extremely tight for months and has only gotten tighter. The campaigns have shifted from persuasion to mobilization,” Shea added, pointing out that undecided voters are not a factor this late in the race.

Colby College’s poll found that voters ranked Gideon as their second choice about 51 percent of the time. Comparatively, Linn has been ranked as the second choice 29 percent of the time, and Collins 13 percent of the time. 

“Given the closeness of the race, and the fact that minor-party candidates will probably net about seven percent of the overall vote, it’s likely the ranked-choice process will matter,” said Shea. “In our opinion, this may help Gideon more than Collins.”

Collins’s reelection prospects have been troubled since she voted to confirm Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018 despite learning of his history of alleged sexual assault, particularly after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s, testified that he had sexually assaulted her at a party in the early 1980s. Voters condemned her, and soon afterward, Gideon launched a campaign to replace her in the Senate.

Perhaps seeking to avoid blowback from her constituents, Collins was the only Republican senator to vote not to confirm Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the court this week.