Ranked-choice voting is a system “designed to change election outcomes and messages” and alter the Maine Republican Party itself, the party said in its latest court filing over the controversial election method.

Monday’s filing supports a federal court lawsuit the party filed to stop the use of ranked-choice voting, which was adopted by Maine voters in a 2016 referendum.

The party says that “ranked-choice voting is designed to change the character of the party” and shouldn’t be forced on Republicans in the June 12 primary.

“One need only consider what would have happened to the Republican Party – and the country – if Lincoln had not been its nominee in 1860,” lawyer Joshua D. Dunlap said rhetorically in the brief. “Changing election outcomes and election messaging is the only purpose the RCV Act serves.”

Under ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If, after the first count, no one wins a clear majority – more than 50 percent – of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and his or her voters’ second choices are added to the totals of the other candidates. Then the ballots are retabulated, and the process continues until one candidate has a majority and is declared the winner.

Last week, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap dismissed as “speculative” the possible election of what he called an “inappropriate or inadequate” candidate as a result of ranked-choice voting in his court filing, which defends ranked-choice voting. The filing, written by Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner for the secretary, dismisses the Republican contention that ranked-choice voting could lead to the selection of a candidate who isn’t truly representative of the party as “highly debatable and empirically unproven.”


The Republicans also contend that ranked-choice voting changes “the character of the party by changing its election process, and therefore its nominee, (and) strikes at the heart of the party’s right to freedom of association.” The filing said that changing the method of the election doesn’t advance any state interests and, with potential harm to the party, the Republicans should be granted an injunction blocking the use of ranked-choice voting next month.

U.S. District Judge Jon D. Levy has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on the party’s motion for an injunction.

Also on Monday, the Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting said that the Republican Party “seeks to revert to a foregone era where political insiders pick the winners and losers of the primary process in private, smoked-filled rooms.”

The committee was responsible for the referendum that adopted ranked-choice voting in Maine.

Levy ruled that the committee couldn’t intervene in the case, but said it was free to file a brief in support of ranked-choice voting, which it did last week.

The brief said the use of ranked-choice voting doesn’t unfairly burden the parties and that the state has the power to determine the manner of elections.


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