Ranked Choice Voting’s been in the news a lot lately. And it probably has you running around in circles trying to figure out what, exactly, is going on. Is it the law or is it not the law?
In a nutshell, it boils down to interpretation of a provision of Maine’s Constitution (don’t snooze, this is important darn it!), which says that elections are won by a “plurality” of the vote (meaning a candidate doesn’t necessarily need to win a majority, 50+1 percent or more). So Joe can win with 40% of the vote if Shmoe and Poe each win 30%.
The Maine Supreme Court just recently affirmed a lower court decision that Ranked Choice Voting can be used for the June Primaries in Maine. But, to be honest, we’re not sure where this is headed… But we can give you the quick and dirty about what has transpired so far.
Mainers want Ranked Choice Voting. 🗳️
In 2016, 52.2% of Mainers voted in favor of Question 5, An Act to Establish Ranked Choice Voting, which was supposed to take effect beginning on January 1, 2018. BUT NOT SO FAST MAINE PEOPLE!
On February 2, 2017, Maine Senate votes to ask the Maine Supreme Court “What’s up?” 😑
The Maine Senate voted 24-10 to ask the Maine Supreme Court to issue an Advisory Opinion (aka NONBINDING) about any constitutional concerns.
On May 2, 2017, the Maine Supreme Court issues its Advisory Opinion. And it wasn’t good news. 👩⚖️
Basically, the Court said the Ranked Choice referendum conflicted with portions of Maine’s Constitution (as stated previously). Sad day.
On October 23, 2017, a day that will live in infamy, the Maine legislature voted to postpone implementation until 2021. 🤔
Originally, the sponsor of the infamous LD 1646, Rep. Ackley, had sought postponement of implementation until constitutional concerns. But He Who Shall Be Named For Shaming Purposes (Rep. Ken Fredette of Newport) put to the floor an amendment to set a deadline of December 2021. If constitutional concerns aren’t met by then, then the entire kit and caboodle would be repealed. The bill passed in the House with 68 shameful votes for and 63 blessed votes against (20 members didn’t bother). In the Senate, 19 shameful votes for and 16 blessed votes against the awful bill.
Winter was coming, but roughly 77,000 Mainers signed on to the People’s Veto to POSTPONE THE POSTPONEMENT of Ranked Choice.
The Ranked Choice Voting committee initiated a campaign that garnered over 77,000 signatures, thousands more than the 61,123 needed, to put the People’s Veto of LD 1646 to a vote during the June 12, 2018 Primary – which, in a nutshell, postpones LD 1646 and allows Ranked Choice for the June 12 Primary Election.
On April 4, 2018, Senate Republicans asked Maine’s Supreme Court to stop the use of Ranked Choice in June Primaries.
“It’ll be a hot mess,” They said. “The sky will fall.” “It’s the end of the world as we know it!” “RAWR RAWR RAWR!” “What’s happening to our Democracy…. oh wait.”
But just this week, the Maine Supreme Court said “NOT SO FAST!”
As the Court put it, “Both the (Ranked Choice Voting Act) as first enacted by the people in 2016 and the amendments to ranked-choice primary voting enacted by the Legislature in the Implementation Act in 2017 and immediately effectuated through the people’s veto expressly provide for primary elections to be governed by ranked-choice voting.”