A federal judge said Wednesday that he will rule next week on the Maine Republican Party’s bid to have a voter-approved ranked-choice voting system thrown out for the party’s two June 12 primaries, including a crucial four-way gubernatorial race. It’s perhaps the last legal gauntlet that ranked-choice voting must run before the June 12 primary, where Maine will become the first state to use the method after voters approved it in 2016 and the state’s high court cleared the way for it to be used in an April decision. The state party sued Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in U.S. District Court in early May, after delegates at the state convention authorized a rule that called for gubernatorial and legislative candidates to be elected by a plurality as candidates have been elected in the past.
Republicans argue that the voting method violates constitutional rights to free association and are asking for the court to force the state to only accept first choices. But Dunlap, a Democrat, has called the lawsuit disruptive, saying in a court filing that the party has no right to “pick and choose which legal requirements should apply to its party in a state-run election.”
The lawsuit affects two Republican primaries — the gubernatorial race between businessman Shawn Moody, former Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and a three-way Maine House of Representatives race in Turner, Leeds and part of Livermore.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Jon D. Levy heard oral arguments in the case from attorneys for the Maine Republican Party and Dunlap, saying that he would likely issue an opinion “early next week.”