The Maine Senate tabled a bill Wednesday that would have repealed a citizens initiative passed in November that made Maine the first state in the nation to adopt a statewide ranked-choice voting system. Senators then voted unanimously, without a roll call tally, to give initial approval to a bill that would amend the Maine Constitution – if approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and by voters – to resolve issues with the new law identified by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Its advisory opinion in May found that parts of the new law violated the state constitution, which calls for candidates in races for the Legislature and the governor’s office to be elected by a plurality of voters – the most votes – and not necessarily a majority of voters – at least 50 percent – as they would be under a ranked-choice system. But the opinion did not address ranked-choice voting in Maine’s federal elections or party primary elections, and supporters have argued the law should stand for those races while the Legislature and then voters decide if the constitution should be amended.
“Voters demanded election reform, and it’s our responsibility to ensure they get it,” Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, said in a prepared statement issued after the vote on the constitutional amendment bill. “Ranked-choice voting gives voters more choices, and encourages candidates to run campaigns that appeal to voters outside their normal base of support. And perhaps most importantly, it eliminates the ‘spoiler effect,’ giving voters the ability to cast their ballots for the candidate they truly prefer, not just the one they think has the best chance of winning.”
But those seeking to repeal the new law outright said two different systems for voting could be confusing for voters while discouraging voter turnout.