Last November, voters of Maine approved a ballot-initiative to implement ranked-choice voting for all offices other than President. Hailed by advocates of electoral reform and defenders of third parties, this made Maine the first state to systematically reject the “first past the post” election system.
Unfortunately, the Maine Supreme Court disagreed. After multiple Justices fretted at oral arguments that the election system of instant run-offs would weaken the two-party system, the court handed down an advisory opinion declaring the initiative in violation of the state constitution.
As The Jack News noted:
So now the legislature has two options. First, they could vote to repeal the statute that voters just passed. This would be problematically self-serving and undemocratic. Second, they could refer the substance of Question 5 back to the voters as a proposed state constitutional amendment. That would insulate Mainer’s preference for ranked-choice voting from future state court challenges.
We now happily report that the state legislature has chosen second option. The committee in charge of considering the question rejected the first option and tabled it as inappropriate.
Instead, the committee recommended the legislature propose a state constitutional amendment. The state senate has already done so, and the lower house is expected to follow suit. The proposed constitutional amendment will then go back to the voters for a second referendum, and once passed will prevent the state supreme court from interfering again.
(Caricature of Paul LePage, the Maine governor who has inspired a ranked-choice voting movement in the state, by DonkeyHotey used with permission.)