Inside Augusta

Legislature votes to delay and potentially repeal ranked-choice voting

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The Maine Legislature voted on Monday to delay the implementation of ranked-choice voting until December 2021, meaning ranked-choice voting could not be lawfully applied to an election in Maine until 2022. Lawmakers met for a special session in Augusta and passed committee amendment B on LD 1646, which delays the implementation of the law until 2021 and outright repeals ranked-choice voting if a constitutional amendment is not passed within that timeframe.

Proponents of ranked-choice voting continue to assert the Legislature is not “respecting the will” of the voters, but cannot seem to wrap their heads around the impending legal consequences for the State of Maine if it were to allow ranked-choice voting to remain the law of the land.

The justices of Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court delivered an advisory opinion earlier this year that deemed ranked-choice voting to be unconstitutional in Maine. The opinion did not provide guidance on the logistical implementation of the law, however, which left additional questions about the measure’s constitutionality as the Legislature considered taking new action.

Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth, offered LD 1646 “An Act to Bring Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting Law into Constitutional Compliance,” as a quick fix to ranked-choice voting, but its contents did not pass the straight face test.

LD 1646 would have implemented ranked-choice voting in all primary races, and in the general election for US Representative and US Senator. This would have required Maine print two separate ballots for all elections and purchase new voting machines and software that can accurately tabulate ranked-choice ballots.

At a public hearing for LD 1646 on Monday, Oct. 16, proponents of ranked-choice continued to assert that all races could appear on one ballot and that Maine’s voting software could tabulate ranked-choice ballots, however these positions do not withstand factual scrutiny.

The Secretary of State’s Office testified on multiple ranked-choice voting bills this session, including LD’s 1624, 1625 and 1646, establishing that Maine would need to print two separate ballots and purchase new voting machines and software for proper implementation of ranked-choice voting. The Secretary of State’s office also made clear their preference that Maine has one voting system, not a ranked-choice system for certain races and a plurality system for others.

While proponents continue to cry foul, Maine truly dodged a bullet by passing the amended version of LD 1646. Because ranked-choice voting was deemed unconstitutional in an advisory opinion, any election results determined by ranked-choice would have faced legal challenges in courts, which could have diminished every Maine citizen’s faith in our election system.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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