A hoped-for result of the upcoming special legislative session in Maine will be ending the deadlock over ranked-choice voting. Supporters and opponents have been at loggerheads since voters narrowly approved the measure in last fall’s referendum.

The system would apply when more than two candidates are running in gubernatorial, legislative and congressional elections. Voters can rank their choices, and in subsequent rounds of counting, lower-polling candidates are eliminated until a majority winner emerges.

The measure hit a snag in May when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued a unanimous advisory opinion that ranked-choice voting contradicts the state constitution. In elections for governor and the Maine House and Senate, the justices said the Maine Constitution mandates that winners be decided by a plurality of voters.

The Republican-led Maine Senate responded by voting to repeal ranked-choice voting. The Democratic-led Maine House voted to leave it in place for federal elections and party primaries, where, in the justices’ view, it was not unconstitutional.

Proponents hope that a partial implementation – for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and primaries – might lead to a constitutional amendment allowing ranked-choice voting for all elections. But with two-thirds of both legislative chambers required, a constitutional amendment seems unlikely.

If the impasse continues, the options would be going to court or launching a new referendum.

I was a founding member of the national FairVote organization that helped fund and promote last year’s referendum campaign. I outlined my reservations in a guest column that appeared in several Maine newspapers. Some of my technical and cost concerns then dovetail with the constitutional concerns now.

I propose a simplified version of ranked-choice voting that satisfies all the constitutional questions that have been raised and can be used for all Maine elections.

It could be implemented with minimal changes to voting equipment and at minimal new expense to taxpayers. It would make for a transparent counting process while easing any confusion on the part of voters.

Multiple vote counts are what create the constitutional conflict. When ranking three (or more) candidates, subsequent choices have to be correlated with ballots from a previous count. But if there were only a first and a second choice, votes could be added directly to a candidate’s total and tabulated in a single count. With no distinction between a “plurality” winner in the initial count and a “majority” winner in a subsequent count, there is no conflict with the constitution’s “plurality” provision.

A two-choice method would also comply with the constitutional requirement that vote counts be completed locally. With more than two rankings, only the initial count can be completed locally.

Subsequent counts and a final tabulation have to be completed at the Secretary of State’s Office. The justices sidestepped the question, but it has to be addressed for ranked-choice voting to be used for state elections.

Other two-choice methods (Bucklin voting, supplementary vote) count votes in multiple rounds and thus would not conform to Maine’s constitution.

This proposal tabulates all votes in a single count. Ranked-choice voting adherents will point out that it’s not a perfect solution. Where multiple candidates compete for a fragmented electorate, voters may opt not to cast a second choice if they think it undercuts their first choice.

But in Maine elections, two choices should generally suffice to convey support to a preferred candidate and then to one who is acceptable, without defaulting to a candidate the voter finds unacceptable. Voters casting a “principled” vote for someone they believe can’t win would most likely cast their second vote for the “acceptable” candidate.

An illustration might be a race featuring Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Johnson and Stein supporters might give their second vote to Romney or Obama. Some Romney and Obama supporters would give their second vote to Johnson or Stein. But voters could not cast a second vote for the same candidate.

The simplified version provides all the essential functions voters expect from ranked-choice elections. It records two distinct rankings so the candidates know the intensity of their support and where their added support came from.

And it accomplishes what Maine voters seem to want most: eliminating divisive “spoiler” outcomes.