In May, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion concluding that the multi-round ranked-choice voting statute may violate the “plurality” provision of the Maine Constitution.

Under ranked-choice voting as adopted, there are sequential “rounds” of vote tabulation. The court apparently determined that the Maine Constitution requires that the winner is the candidate with the most votes after the first tabulation.

To me, there is a simple solution: Alter the statute to make votes subject to a “condition precedent” (a fancy term for a requirement that must be met before an act occurs).

In practice, this would be akin to the statement: “I vote for Candidate X subject to the condition precedent that X would not come in last place once all votes are tallied. If this would be the case, I instead vote for Candidate Y subject to the condition precedent that Y does not come in last place once all votes are tallied. Etc. etc.”

Functionally, if my top candidate, X, would come in last place, I am saying that I am not voting for them (the “condition precedent” language). Instead, in the example above, I am voting for “Y” subject to the condition precedent and so on and so forth.

So phrased, my vote, which is conditional, occurs only a single time once all the conditions are considered and for only one candidate. Accordingly, there is no “interim” “plurality” winner, yet the winning candidate will the be same as under the voter-approved ranked-choice voting statute.

Most importantly, this minor change to the language of the ranked-choice voting statute appears to provide a method by which the Maine Legislature can respect the will of the voters by implementing ranked-choice voting, while at the same time not running afoul of the Supreme Judicial Court’s nonbinding advisory opinion.

Chris Straw

Cape Elizabeth