The state’s highest court heard arguments Thursday on whether a ballot question approved last November to elect top state and federal officials under a ranked-choice voting system complies with the Maine Constitution. Issues debated in the hourlong hearing before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court included the impact on the two-party political system, the Legislature’s responsibility to enact the will of the people and whether the change would create a constitutional crisis. Several cities around the United States, including Portland, use ranked-choice voting, but no states employ it for statewide offices. The law fundamentally changes the way voters select the state’s top elected officials – legislators, the governor and Maine’s four congressional delegates. Attorneys representing the Maine Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the campaign to pass the ranked-choice voting law, made arguments to the justices.
… In February, the state Senate asked the court to offer guidance after some opponents of the new law questioned whether it complies with the Maine Constitution. A key question is whether revising the electoral system can be done with a simple change in state law or requires a more complex constitutional amendment.
James Kilbreth, an attorney for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, said the issue didn’t need to come before the court at all. He argued that because voters had approved the law, the Legislature just needed to move forward with a means of enacting it as the will of the people. Kilbreth even suggested that were the court to intervene, it would be overreaching its authority by helping the Legislature do its job.