The Maine House and Senate passed conflicting versions of ranked-choice voting legislation Tuesday, making the future of the first-in-the-nation, voter-approved measure uncertain. The Senate voted Tuesday morning to repeal the ranked-choice voting law. The 21-13 vote came after the state’s highest court gave an advisory opinion that electing members of the Legislature and the governor by ranked choice did not comply with the Maine Constitution, which calls for the winners of those elections to be selected by a plurality of voters. But just moments after the Senate action, and with no debate, the House of Representatives voted 79-66 to leave parts of the law intact for primary voting and congressional elections. The House bill also leaves open the door to ranked-choice voting for governor and the Legislature if a constitutional amendment is passed in the future.
The House bill should please supporters of the new law, who said lawmakers should implement the parts that were not viewed as unconstitutional by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in May.
The court issued its unanimous advisory opinion after the Maine Senate asked it for guidance in February.
“The object must always be to ‘ascertain the will of the people,’ ” the court wrote of the ranked-choice initiative approved by voters. “Nonetheless, when a statute – including one enacted by citizen initiative – conflicts with a constitutional provision, the constitution prevails.”