Maine lawmakers will make a final effort in the closing days of the legislative session to act on a citizen-backed ballot law that gives Maine a first-in-the-nation ranked-choice voting system. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kent Ackley, an independent from Monmouth, would allow ranked-choice voting for party primaries and Maine’s congressional seats. But it would set aside the part of the law, which was supported by 51 percent of the voters in November, that calls for ranked-choice voting in general elections for the Legislature and the governor’s office. Under the new law, voters will rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the first-place votes, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated.
Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidate, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process would continue until one candidate had a clear majority and was declared the winner. The balloting system is mostly intended to ensure a majority winner in races with more than two candidates.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion in May that said the state’s constitution requires that legislators and the governor be elected by a plurality, and elections for those offices conducted under a ranked-choice system would likely be challenged in court, potentially invalidating the results and forcing a new election.
An effort to repeal the law in its entirety failed in late June, setting the stage for what could be a legally messy election cycle in 2018, if a candidate who lost a ranked-choice election went to court to contest the outcome.