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Ranked choice voting may be heading to Maine Supreme Court

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The Maine Supreme Court may be asked to decide if the new ranked choice voting law — passed by voters — violates the Maine Constitution.

The president of the Senate says he plans to bring an order up for a vote in the next few days, which would ask the court for an opinion.

The ranked choice voting law was put on the ballot by a petition drive, and won the support of 52 percent of voters in November, but questions have been raised by the attorney general and some lawmakers whether the law is indeed constitutional.

The major issue is that the Maine Constitution says candidates need a plurality of votes to win, meaning more than anyone else. But the ranked choice law says a candidate needs to get a majority, which is more than 50 percent.

Kyle Bailey, the leader of the referendum campaign, told NEWS CENTER that legislators are really trying to find a way to block the law and eventually repeal it. Sen. Thibodeau argues that the constitutionality issue is serious and needs to be answered.

Thibodeau says the attorney general is helping write the order requesting the court declare a “solemn occasion” and provide an opinion. He says the Senate will vote on that order next week, if not sooner.

The Supreme Court would then decide whether to consider the request. If justices were to say the law is unconstitutional, the Legislature would need to either change the wording of the law or change the state constitution. But if the court were to decline to give an opinion, the law would remain as is and would be in place for the 2018 elections.

Thibodeau said in that case, there would likely be lawsuits by losing candidates challenging the constitutionality of ranked choice. Kyle Bailey said judges in other states have ruled ranked choice voting is constitutional, and said he was confident the law will stand in Maine, too.