The Maine Republican Party is asking the state supreme court to put on hold its ruling that allows ranked-choice voting in the presidential contest, to provide an opportunity for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Ballots are recounted in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in Augusta in 2018. The Maine Republican Party is making a last-ditch effort to prevent ranked-choice voting from being used to tally the presidential contest in November. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

The request filed Wednesday represents a last-ditch effort to delay the use of ranked-choice voting in this November’s presidential election until state voters have the final say through a so-called people’s veto referendum.

“We are pursuing a stay with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court with the intent of taking our case, and the rights of tens of thousands of Mainers, to the Supreme Court, if necessary, as soon as possible,” said Demi Kouzounas, chair of the Maine Republican Party.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments on Oct. 1, a little more than a month before the election.

The Republican Party conceded that ballots are already being printed in a ranked-choice, grid-style format, but suggested there could be a traditional vote by counting only voters’ first choices.

Maine Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner disputed that contention.

“To change the rules by which the election outcome will be determined after the ballots are printed and the votes have begun to be cast would seriously jeopardize the integrity of this election and undermine public confidence in the validity of the outcome,” she said.

Ranked voting already is allowed in U.S. House and Senate contests in Maine.

Under the voting system, voters are allowed to rank all of the candidates in order of preference. A candidate who wins a majority of first-place votes is the winner. If there’s no majority winner, then there are additional tabulation rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated and votes are reallocated.

The ranked-choice voting system, approved by Maine voters in 2016, has become a partisan issue after Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin was ousted in 2018 despite collecting the most first-place votes.

The Maine Republican Party had tried to fight a state law expanding the system to presidential races by embarking on a referendum drive. But the secretary of state concluded signatures gatherers fell short of the necessary threshold for a statewide vote.

The Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday sided with the secretary of state, concluding that rules governing signatures gatherers that led to hundreds of signatures being invalidated did not violate the First Amendment.

In its new request, the Maine Republican Party’s attorney said that the court should issue a stay and an injunction, contending the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling is in conflict with a consensus in the federal courts.

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