A federal judge on Tuesday turned down a request for a preliminary injunction barring the use of ranked-choice voting in the Maine Republican Party’s June 12 primaries, including the contest to become the party’s gubernatorial candidate. The party filed suit after its state convention in early May, saying delegates unanimously wanted to continue to use a plurality vote in the primary, meaning that the candidate who gets the most votes in the initial round of balloting would win. But the Maine secretary of state had decided that ranked-choice voting, adopted by referendum in 2016, would be used in this year’s primary balloting. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Jon Levy dismissed the party’s main argument – that ranked-choice voting might result in a different candidate being selected than if the nominee were chosen in a plurality vote. The party had argued that ranked-choice voting therefore violated its First Amendment rights of freedom to associate.
“The Maine Republican Party is disappointed in the outcome of its motion for a preliminary injunction,” said Joshua Dunlap, the lawyer for the party. “The ruling is contrary to Supreme Court precedent making it clear that the state cannot freely regulate the party’s process for selecting its nominees.”
Under the ranked-choice system, voters select candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who preferred the eliminated candidate would then have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until one candidate has a clear majority of votes.