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Will ranked-choice voting survive Legislature?

By Stephen Betts | Jun 23, 2017

Augusta — The voter-approved ranked-choice voting law faces an uncertain fate, despite support in the Legislature.

Local legislators are divided along party lines on a proposal to amend the Maine Constitution to implement ranked-choice voting.

The ranked-choice voting referendum was approved statewide 388,273 to 356,621. In Knox County, the article was approved 12,746 to 10,215.

Under ranked-choice voting, voters rank their choices, and if one candidate does not receive a majority of ballots cast, the lowest finisher is removed from the list and that person's votes distributed until a person gets a majority of votes.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has issued an advisory opinion saying that the law is in contradiction to the state Constitution, which states that state candidates can win with a plurality of votes.

The Legislature is now considering both a bill to amend the Constitution to allow for ranked-choice voting, and a second bill that would repeal the ranked-choice law.

State Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, said he has been a strong supporter of ranked-choice voting for years.

"Too often, candidates run campaigns that appeal only to their most partisan, most dedicated supporters. RCV forces candidates to win real majorities by winning support from a broader portion of the electorate. This results in cleaner, more aspirational campaigns, and election winners that truly represent the majority of their constituents," Miramant said.

He said the Legislature must honor the results of the election, and he co-sponsored LD 1624 to amend the Constitution.

For the Constitution to be amended, both the House and Senate would have to give two-thirds approval, followed by majority approval by voters.

The Senate approved the bill June 21. Miramant voted to keep the bill alive, while Republican state Sens. Dana Dow of Waldoboro and Michael Thibodeau of Winterport voted to kill the law.

There has been no roll-call vote in the House, but it has approved the legislation as well.

Rep. Owen Casas, I-Rockport, said he is a strong supporter of ranked-choice voting.

Casas, and Democratic Reps. John Spear of South Thomaston and Walter Kumiega III of Deer Isle said the will of the citizens should be honored.

Sutton explained her vote.

"I do not wish to amend the Constitution to implement RCV because we live in a representative republic, and not a pure democracy. Our citizens' referendum process has been hijacked by out-of-state special-interest groups who have figured out how to game the system, buy votes and deceive voters," Sutton said.

Emails were also sent to other members of the Knox County legislative delegation, but no responses were received by Thursday night.

The Legislature is embroiled in an impasse over another voter-approved referendum that would impose a 3 percent surcharge on household income in excess of $200,000. Republicans are refusing to support a budget unless that law is repealed.

The Legislature also amended the voter-approved law to increase the minimum wage by exempting service workers.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Charlotte Davenhill | Jun 23, 2017 07:27

Someone recently challenged me for writing a letter to the editor in support of RCV. "Why are you opposed?" I asked. "Because my candidate wouldn't win," he said with a funny little smirk. So there it is.

 



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