Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and legislative Republicans told the state’s high court on Friday that the ranked-choice voting system approved by voters in 2016 is unconstitutional, setting up a fight with advocates for the law. Legal briefs were due to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Friday ahead of an April oral argument in a proceeding initiated last month by the Maine Senate asking for an advisory opinion on the new law’s constitutionality. The system would apply in gubernatorial, congressional and legislative races with three or more candidates. A winner would be declared if a majority picks a candidate as their first choice, but if that doesn’t happen, the candidate with the lowest share of first-place votes is eliminated and second-place votes for that candidate are reallocated. That process that would be repeated until a majority is won.
But Mills, a Democrat, has long said that it runs afoul of two provisions in the Maine Constitution that say elections are decided by a plurality of votes and that ballots must be received, sorted and counted by cities and towns.
The ranked-choice campaign was an effort to end plurality elections that have decided nine out of the last 11 gubernatorial races, including Gov. Paul LePage’s wins in 2010 and 2014. It would require the Maine secretary of state’s office to tabulate ranked-choice votes.
Mills’ brief to the high court doubles down on that argument, saying the state Constitution “must be amended before such fundamental changes in Maine’s electoral process can occur.”