Portland, Maine, chose its first elected mayor this week, using the crazy-looking ballot below -- a 15-way, instant runoff race. Voters were asked to select their choices in order of preference, one through 15.
Personally, I agreed with the side that didn't expect this to work so great. When the city first fed in the data from this logic puzzle of a ballot, the computers choked. The instant runoffs, apportioning preference until someone reached 51 percent, took most of a day. But they finally got a winner, and the returns suggest that voters were better able to fill in the circles than I predicted. The Portland Press-Herald says that of the 20,212 ballots, 139 had to be thrown out because they were filled in wrong. Another 439 people skipped the part for mayor. That's not sterling, but I wouldn't call it a disaster.
Also, the folks who finished at the way back of the giant pack said they liked the system, because it kept the negative campaigning to a minimum since every candidate had something to gain from every voter. (Adding: Michael Brennan, second on the ballot, won.)