Maine’s highest court is likely to rule quickly on legal questions around the state’s first-in-the-nation, ranked-choice voting law after a hearing Thursday marked by the justices’ pointed and skeptical questioning of attorneys involved in the case. The case, which involves the Maine Senate, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting that backed the law approved by voters in November 2016, is meant to settle whether the system can be used in the June 12 primaries. Justices grilled attorneys for the three parties during the 50-minute hearing at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, leveling their focus on Tim Woodcock, the lawyer representing the Republican-controlled Senate.
The justices appeared skeptical that the Senate had a strong case. Before Woodcock could finish his initial presentation, they repeatedly interrupted him, asking at one point why the Legislature had not fixed problems with the ranked-choice voting law it was now asking the state’s judicial branch to resolve.
Justice Donald Alexander noted that the Legislature has known for months that ranked-choice voting was the law, yet it has not acted to fix its flaws. The law court identified the constitutional flaws in an opinion issued in May 2017, in response to questions framed by the Senate itself.