Inside Augusta

Maine’s ranked-choice voting law still needs 16 amendments for proper implementation

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For those who attended or streamed the public hearing for LD 1646, “An Act to Bring Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting Law into Constitutional Compliance,” on Monday, Oct. 16, proponents of the bill led you to believe that Maine was ready to implement ranked-choice voting.

Dozens of campaign volunteers turned out to testify in favor of ranked-choice voting, however they completely overlooked several facets of the law that still conflict with existing statute and the Maine Constitution.

So just how bad is Maine’s ranked-choice voting law?

According to Julie Flynn, the Deputy Secretary of State, Maine’s citizen-approved ranked-choice voting law needs to be amended in 16 areas for it to be legally implemented in the state of Maine.

Flynn’s testimony shed light on serious flaws within the initiative as it currently sits under state law and demonstrated how the language of LD 1646 would not have rectified any of these issues.

According to Flynn, these are the conforming amendments needed to Title 21-A to bring ranked-choice voting into compliance:

· Section 1(27-C) – definition of elections determined by RCV – clarify that RCV applies only when there are more than 2 candidates (either listed on the ballot or as a declared write-in) for a particular office.
· Section 601 – ballot layout – address differences in how RCV ballots will be prepared.
· Section 605-A(2)(A) – voting instruction poster – authorize a separate instruction poster for RCV.
· Section 691(1) and 692(1) – marking ballots for primary and general elections – address marking ballots for RCV elections.
· Section 695 – ballot counting procedures – specify the procedures for RCV either in this section, OR state that this section is for non-RCV procedures and specify the RCV counting procedures in another section of law or authorize those procedures to be developed by RCV Rules.
· Section 696, 1st ¶ – counting of certain ballots – add language such as “except to the extent that may be modified by Ranked-choice voting”.
· Section 696(2) – determining invalid votes – add cross-reference to RCV Rules.
· Section 698 – packaging RCV ballots – if RCV ballots are printed separately from non-RCV ballots, specify that municipalities with more than 750 ballots cast (i.e., what will fill into 1 tamper-proof container) must package RCV and non-RCV ballots in separate, marked, tamper-proof containers.
· Section 700 – posting unofficial results – specify these would be first choices only for RCV.
· Section 711 – reporting results to State – specify these would be first choices only for RCV.
· Section 722(1) – State tabulation of results – for RCV results, specify that the Secretary of State shall tally or count (and then tabulate) RCV results OR amend this section to say “except for RCV elections” and enact a new section for RCV counting, or cross reference to RCV Rules for counting process.
· Section 723(1) – determination of primary election – change from plurality to majority as determined by RCV for certain offices.
· Section 723-A – determination of RCV winner – change “tabulation” to “counting” in several places.
· Section 723-A(1)(D) – definition of exhausted ballot – add cross-reference to RCV Rules.
· Section 723-A(2) – RCV counting procedures – put more detail here or authorize in RCV Rules.
· Section723(A)(3) – determination of ties – substitute a reference to Section 732.

The language of LD 1646 would have allowed ranked-choice voting to be implemented to Maine’s primary voting system, and in the general elections for US Senate and US Representative, without addressing any of these policy concerns.

After the Justices of Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court unanimously determined ranked-choice voting to be unconstitutional in an advisory opinion, supporters of the initiative decided to move forward with their unconstitutional law anyway, attempting to pass LD 1646 without a constitutional amendment.

It should be clear now that there are far too many concerns with ranked-choice voting to move forward with LD 1646. It appears the only avenue of recourse for supporters is to pass a constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Maine Legislature to be pushed onto the ballot where Maine voters could enact the amendment with a majority vote.

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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