by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Maine Democrats are on the cusp of passing a constitutional amendment proposal that seeks to expand the use of ranked-choice voting (RCV) in state elections.
Under RCV, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of first-choice votes in the first round of voting, the last-place finisher is eliminated, and his votes are reallocated to the voter’s second-choice candidate. This process continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes.
LD 1917 — which would expand the use of RCV to gubernatorial and state legislative races — was passed along party lines by the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs last month and will now head to the legislature for consideration “in the coming weeks,” according to the Associated Press (AP).
During the 2016 election, Maine voters approved the “Maine Ranked Choice Voting” ballot initiative by nearly 32,000 votes (52.1 to 47.9 percent). While the law was originally set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court found in May 2017 that the use of RCV for state-level elections violated the Maine Constitution. To rectify the issue, the state legislature “approved a bill to delay implementation until December 2021 and repeal [the initiative] unless a constitutional amendment addressing concerns over the legality of ranked choice voting is passed.”
Supporters of the initiative, however, “collected and submitted enough signatures for a veto referendum targeting the repeal of the legislation to delay ranked-choice voting.” Mainers ultimately authorized the use of RCV for presidential and congressional elections during a June 2018 referendum vote.
According to the AP, LD 1917 must receive two-thirds majority support from the legislature before it can be sent to Maine voters for approval. While Democrats enjoy majorities in both chambers, they would need some Republicans to support the measure for it to pass.