Last November, I voted “no” on Question 5, the referendum that asked voters whether they wanted to enact ranked-choice voting for primary and general elections. I did so because, as a candidate for the Maine Senate, I shared concerns with voters in my district about the potential for confusion and depressed turnout, as well as the possibility of chaos taking hold in a disputed election caused by the system. In addition, as a Maine former attorney general, I concurred with the legal opinion presented by Attorney General Janet Mills that ranked-choice voting raised constitutional concerns.
After the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s unanimous advisory opinion last month that ranked-choice voting would be unconstitutional for use in three statewide elections, I decided to co-sponsor legislation — LD 1625 — to repeal the law in its entirety. But after listening to testimony and reviewing the facts, I changed my mind. I have always appreciated the importance and necessity of constitutional compliance, which is why I now support preserving all constitutional parts of this law. Lawmakers should not overrule the more than 388,000 Maine people from across the political spectrum who voted last November to enact ranked-choice voting, the second largest referendum vote in our state’s history. As I heard from some of these voters in public testimony, I realized they were rightfully astonished and offended by the prospect of full repeal. There is an opportunity for middle ground.
Simultaneously, the Legislature can respect the opinion of the supreme court and uphold the will of the people with a partial implementation of the law. This would involve immediately implementing ranked-choice voting for the seven primary and federal elections for which there are no constitutional questions, and indefinitely postponing the implementation of ranked-choice voting for the three statewide general elections until a constitutional amendment is ratified by the Legislature and voters.