The ranked-choice voting law enacted by voters in 2016 is in danger of full repeal following a series of votes Monday in the Legislature, but it has a stay of execution until December 2021. The law, which was deemed partially unconstitutional earlier this year by an advisory opinion of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, has been at the center of controversy in the Legislature for months. Lawmakers adjourned this year’s regular session in August with the House and Senate in disagreement and unable to pass a bill. However, the two chambers agreed in preliminary votes Monday to delay implementation of the law until December 2021, as long as the Legislature can amend the law by then to bring it into constitutional compliance. A failure to do that would lead to a full repeal of the ranked-choice voting law.
Lawmakers returned to the State House on Monday with two other options: repeal the law or amend it so it conforms to the Maine Constitution. Monday morning, the House voted 74-64 in favor of a bill to limit the voting method to only primaries and congressional elections.
That solution skirted a provision in the Maine Constitution that says gubernatorial and legislative elections can be won by a plurality — which simply means the highest number of votes — and not necessarily an overall majority.
Later in the day, the Senate voted 19-16 for an amendment to the bill that would delay implementation of the law until December of 2021 — effectively putting off the use of ranked-choice voting until an election in 2022. That means it is very likely that ranked-choice voting as a concept will be decided by the next Legislature and governor.