Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court has agreed to review a set of questions being posed to it by the Maine Senate over a citizen-enacted law that would change the state to a ranked-choice voting system.
The state Senate requested the court review the ballot question law last week, suggesting it presents a so-called “solemn occasion” as the legality and even the constitutionality of the new law could throw state government into post-election chaos. In a bipartisan 24-10 vote, the Senate, as provided in the state’s constitution, asked the court to review the law.
In ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate has more than 50 percent after the first tally, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidate and the ballots are retabulated. The process continues until one candidate has a clear majority and is declared the winner. The change would apply to races for the Legislature, the governor’s office and Maine’s four congressional seats.
Opponents to the change have said Maine’s constitution calls for the winner of an election to receive only a plurality – or the largest number of votes – in races with two or more candidates.
On Tuesday, a statement from the court indicated it would take the matter up and invited the Legislature, the state’s Attorney General, the Governor’s office and the Secretary of State to all submit written arguments on the new law, which some believe is unconstitutional since it changes the way the state’s highest elected officials, including the governor, are elected. The order also sets a date of Thursday, April 13 for oral arguments on the matter before the court in Portland.
State Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, issued a short statement thanking the court for a quick response.
“Lawmakers desperately need guidance from the court as we move forward crafting public policy in order to prevent uncertainty in the outcome of our future elections,” Thibodeau said.
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