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Ranked choice voting may go to Supreme Court

Attorneys representing various interests in the ranked choice voting debate are trying to agree on questions to ask the Maine Supreme Court at a meeting in Augusta

AUGUSTA (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- The dispute over using ranked choice voting in the June primary election may be sent to the Maine Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the state Senate, the Maine Secretary of State and the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting are meeting in the Capitol Judicial Center Wednesday morning, trying to agree on the specific questions for the Law Court.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy, after meeting briefly with the lawyers, said she had been told they had made progress in discussions Tuesday evening and asked them to keep working to find agreement. They were told to report back to the judge by noon. Attorney Tim Woodcock, representing the Senate, said they hope to agree on the issues and have the case sent to the Supreme Court later Wednesday, if possible.

The Republican-led Senate has challenged the Secretary of State’s plan to use ranked choice voting in the primary, saying it would violate some provisions of the Maine Constitution. They also question whether Secretary Matt Dunlap has the authority to use a new voting system without legislative approval.

The Secretary of State and RCV supporters have said he does have the authority, and that the election should be conducted by ranked choice, which was passed by voters in 2016.

All sides agree the issue needs to be resolved quickly in order to prepare for the June 12 primary. Towns and cities need to begin absentee voting on May 12, and the Secretary of State must prepare, print and distribute ballots before then. The Secretary of State’s office said the decision on a voting method must be made by April 20, at the latest, in order to meet those deadlines.