The ranked-choice voting law enacted by voters in 2016 is in danger of full repeal following a series of votes Monday in the Legislature, but it has a stay of execution until December 2021.
The law, which was deemed partially unconstitutional earlier this year by an advisory opinion of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, has been at the center of controversy in the Legislature for months. Lawmakers adjourned this year’s regular session in August with the House and Senate in disagreement and unable to pass a bill.
However, the two chambers agreed in preliminary votes Monday to delay implementation of the law until December 2021, as long as the Legislature can amend the law by then to bring it into constitutional compliance. A failure to do that would lead to a full repeal of the ranked-choice voting law.
“Today’s action by the legislature to effectively repeal ranked choice voting stands in violation of the clear desire of a majority of Maine voters to have more voice, better choice and majority rule in their elections.
The legislature had a clear path forward if it was serious about respecting the will of the people, as well as satisfying the state constitution. As initially passed by the House today, it could have kept ranked choice voting (RCV) on course for all primaries and all congressional elections in the state. Instead, it chose today’s unnecessary and draconian steps, suspending the law until 2021, when it would be repealed unless Maine changes its constitution via a two-thirds vote of the legislature and a vote of the people to allow majority voting in general elections for governor.
Ironically, today’s attack on the sovereignty of voters was led by gubernatorial candidates in the legislature who without RCV could win their primary with far less than 50%. This is yet another example of why voters demanded RCV — in order to create a new politics that is genuinely responsive to the will of the people.
Maine’s legislature took this undemocratic step despite clear evidence that Mainers can handle RCV and non-RCV races at the same time, without confusion. Legislators need only to look to Portland’s highly successful elections in 2011 and 2015, when voters used RCV to choose a mayor, but not the city council. Those Portland elections also show that RCV can be administered effectively and inexpensively in Maine.
The legislation now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature. We call on the governor to stand with the voters of Maine and veto the bill. Furthermore, we applaud and support all Mainers who are now calling for a people’s veto. If enough signatures are gathered to force a veto, then the law will be suspended until a referendum vote in June, and RCV will be used in Maine’s upcoming primaries. If it takes another referendum for Maine’s politicians to understand the will of Maine’s voters, then they will learn — once again — that Mainers insist on better government and real democracy through ranked choice voting.”