The Maine Legislature is again wrestling with whether to implement, delay or repeal a law passed by voters last November that made Maine the first state to approve a statewide ranked-choice voting system to elect legislators, the governor and members of Congress. In 2017, the Legislature three times failed to reach consensus on what to do with the law, leaving next year’s primary and general elections in a kind of legal limbo. The law is set to be used for the first time in the June 2018 primaries when Maine’s political parties will select candidates for those races. But last May, the state Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion to the state Senate, saying that if ranked-choice voting were used in the general election for governor or legislators, the results could be challenged in court because the system violates the Maine Constitution. And on Monday, the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, after hours of public testimony, failed to reach consensus on a bill that would implement parts of the law that do not raise constitutional concerns, and delay the rest until voters could be asked to amend the constitution.
The hearing attracted a large turnout, including the authors and advocates for the bill, leaders of the campaign that put the ranked-choice question on the ballot, and dozens of residents who testified in support of ranked choice, which many say is needed to end what’s become an increasingly wide partisan divide both in Augusta and Washington.
But lawmakers on the 13-member committee ended the day with four options for the full Legislature: implementing parts of the law, repealing it, delaying implementation of the law until 2019, or delaying it until 2021, and repealing it if a constitutional amendment is not approved.