Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau said Thursday that he’s requesting a legal opinion from the state Attorney General’s Office about whether a citizen-initiated referendum proposal to establish a ranked-choice voting system in Maine violates the state constitution. “It’s the prudent thing to do,” Thibodeau said. “All I know is that we can’t pass legislation in this building without first finding out if it violates the Maine Constitution. This is simply to determine if the Legislature has any role in preventing a citizen referendum that potentially violates the constitution from appearing before voters.” Thibodeau’s move follows a Portland Press Herald report in which a top state election official reiterated her concerns that ranked-choice voting is at odds with a provision in the Maine Constitution that says winners of gubernatorial and State House races are determined by a plurality of votes cast. Ranked-choice voting would swap the traditional plurality system with one that determines a winner after he or she secures a majority of votes cast.
Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, the longtime head of the elections office, said Wednesday that she’s concerned that if voters approve the ranked-choice system in November, candidates elected under the system could be challenged in court.
Flynn said her office has discussed the issue with the Attorney General’s Office and has been advised that the agency “is in agreement with our concerns about constitutionality.”
Thibodeau said his request for a legal opinion seeks to verify those findings and determine whether lawmakers have a responsibility – or authority – to intervene or seek an opinion from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.