The Coastal Packet: Ranked Choice Voting is stil law

Wednesday, May 31

Ranked Choice Voting is stil law

The main job right now is to prevent repeal of the voters' referendum by the legislature. If that can be done, then RCV is the law. The Supreme Court's advisory opinion can at most affect state wide general election races since those are the only ones  mentioned in the Constitution. National races such as for senator or congress members, as well as state primaries, are clearly permitted and could use ranked choice voting as early as 2018. 

Andrew Bossie, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections - The court’s opinion is just that, not a ruling, but an opinion. RCV is still the law of the land here in Maine, but the court has now made it clear that if an actual RCV challenge came forward, they believe it would be struck down. The risk of moving forward with the RCV law for state offices may throw some of the results of the 2018 elections into question. In their opinion, the court lays out how the legislature could rectify the situation by either: 1) advancing a state constitutional amendment or 2) repealing the portion of the law that conflicts with their opinion.

New bills introduced this late in the session require leadership approval from the Legislative Council. On Thursday, the Council gave permission for two bills to move forward: one introduced by Senator Cathy Breen (D-Falmouth) would amend the constitution to eliminate the obstacle to RCV; the other introduced by Senator Garret Mason (R-Lisbon) would repeal the RCV law in total. We strenuously oppose this bill to repeal RCV outright.

Salon - On the same day Donald Trump was elected president last November, further intensifying the state of political dysfunction in America, the voters of Maine took a giant step in the opposite direction. They approved a ballot initiative on ranked-choice voting, a method designed to ensure that whoever wins a given election actually has majority support. Previous legislative efforts in the Pine Tree State had repeatedly died, so voters themselves finally took the lead.

“Maine people have exercised their right to change the way we elect our leaders,” said the initiative’s campaign manager Kyle Bailey in an interview. The victorious ballot initiative “levels the playing field for candidates with the best ideas and gives more choice and more voice to voters, so you never have to vote for the lesser of two evils.”

That’s a particularly big deal in a state with a well-known independent streak, where governors and other officials elected with less than 50 percent of the vote are commonplace. (Maine currently has an independent governor, Trump-friendly conservative Paul LePage, and an independent U.S. senator, Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats.)

“We’ve had nine of 11 elections for governor in which a candidate won with less than 50 percent of the vote,” Bailey told Salon. “Five of those races — almost half of our governor’s elections in the past 40 years — have been won [with] less than 40 percent of the vote. We actually haven’t elected the governor to their first term with a … majority to lead since 1966.”

On May 23, death-sentence headlines flashed across the country, “Ranked-choice voting violates Maine constitution,” the Washington Post blared. “Ranked-Choice Voting System Violates Maine’s Constitution, Court Says,” the New York Times echoed. The reason behind the decision was a provision in the state constitution permitting the election of candidates with plurality support.

But reports of RCV’s demise in Maine had been greatly exaggerated. The ruling was only advisory and resulted from a request by the State Senate in February. It was not the result of an actual lawsuit, which would be legally binding, and it had no bearing on upcoming elections. It was really nothing more than guidance for the legislature to consider in taking further action.

“Ranked-choice voting is the law in the state of Maine,” Bailey said flatly. “It was approved by voters last November. It was certified after the election. Thirty days later, on Jan. 7, it became law. It’s on the books. So whether the legislature does anything or not, we’re going to have ranked-choice voting in 2018. There are no problems using ranked choice voting, as approved by the voters, for primary elections for state and federal offices, as well as for general elections for U.S. Senate and Congress.”

Furthermore, if the state legislature decides to act in order to block RCV, the League of Women Voters has promised to “support a constitutional amendment that is consistent with the will of Maine people,” as Jill Ward, president of the league’s Maine chapter, stated in a press release. “The parts of the law that are unaffected by the advisory opinion, including the application of Ranked Choice Voting to federal races, should be implemented in full for the 2018 election.”

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