New court fight erupts over ranked-choice voting in Maine
AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine judge ordered Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to move forward with the implementation of ranked-choice voting in the June primaries, but the Republican-led Maine Senate was due in court on Wednesday with more questions about the law.
Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy’s decision, released Wednesday, is a massive win for supporters of ranked-choice voting, which has been fraught with constitutional and other legal issues since the system was approved by Maine voters in 2016.
But Murphy also said in response to a separate Tuesday filing by Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, on behalf of the Senate that there are “significant constitutional issues which deserve expedited review by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court given the upcoming June 12, 2018 election.” A scheduling hearing on that matter is slated for 3 p.m. Wednesday in Augusta.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court said it was partially unconstitutional last year and new legal issues were discovered last week. That opinion led the Maine Legislature to pass a bill delaying implementation until 2021 unless lawmakers passed an amendment to the part of the Maine Constitution that says pluralities — and not necessarily majorities — are sufficient to win a state-level general election.
The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, which got the referendum passed, quickly launched a people’s veto effort to nix the law. The people’s veto won approval in March for the June ballot. After that, lawmakers and election officials operated under the assumption that ranked-choice voting would be used for gubernatorial and congressional primaries in June as well.
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