A bill to implement ranked-choice voting in Maine, LD 1646, introduced by Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth, received public hearing yesterday at the State House in Augusta.
While swaths of proponents, mostly campaign volunteers, turned out to testify in favor of ranked-choice voting, they appeared to misunderstand the bill’s contents and the logistical challenges of implementing ranked-choice voting in Maine.
The language of LD 1646 would alter Maine’s voting system by implementing Ranked-Choice Voting in statute for all primary elections, and in the general elections for US Senator and US Representative.
This is what makes the implementation of Ranked-Choice Voting so costly and unworkable for the state of Maine. Enactment of LD 1646 would require that, for primary and general elections, Maine voters submit two separate ballots: the regular ballot we see each year and the Ranked-Choice ballot.
During primary season, two ballots must be printed; one for all ranked-choice races, plus the traditional ballot for local level races like Town Council and Board of Selectmen. Additionally, because ranked-choice ballots do not receive, sort and count votes in the same manner as the traditional ballot, US Senate and US House races must appear on a separate ballot in the general election as well.
This means the state of Maine must allocate more funds for the printing of additional ballots, new voting machines and software that can accurately tabulate a ranked-choice ballot. Voting machines in Maine today are not currently capable of this.
Proponents of LD 1646 testified on Monday that Maine wouldn’t need to print two ballots, and that the state’s voting machines were capable of processing ranked-choice ballots. However, these statements directly conflict with testimony provided by the Secretary of State’s Office and the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association.
For LD 1625, a bill to repeal ranked-choice voting introduced by Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Androscoggin, the Department of the Secretary of State Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions testified that, “the Secretary of State believes having two very different voting systems in place would be confusing to voters and election officials and could lead to significant problems. It would also require the Secretary of State to print two separate ballots – one ballot containing offices to be elected using the ranked-choice voting method and one ballot for offices using the current plurality system.”
Additionally, the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association testified on the same bill that, “The State has a contract with Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) for the voting machines currently in use in Maine. These machines (software and hardware) cannot currently accommodate RCV tabulations.”
What’s more troubling is that it still unknown if the process whereby ranked-choice votes are counted and reported violates the Maine Constitution. Although the Justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously determined Ranked-Choice Voting to be unconstitutional in an advisory opinion, it did not answer lingering questions about the constitutionality of the measure’s logistical implementation or its ability to be applied to Maine’s primary voting system.
Implementing ranked-choice voting in Maine would be costly, confusing and time consuming for voters, election officials and volunteers. Further, it could easily dissuade them from participating in our elections altogether. That is why the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee should amend LD 1646 to strike ranked-choice voting from Maine statute altogether.