With Election Day creeping closer, a ruling from the Maine Supreme Court paves the way for ranked choice voting to be used in the state’s primary election on June 12. The case came before Maine’s highest court after the state legislature challenged Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s constitutional authority to carry out an election using ranked choice voting (RCV). According to the complaint from Maine’s state Senate, a ranked-choice voting election would cause a constitutional crisis and Dunlap’s execution of the 2016 ballot initiative would be illegal. The justices, however, didn’t find enough evidence that such a crisis would happen to justify violating its separation of powers to overturn the law.
The road to implementation has been contentious for RCV supporters. After the original 2016 referendum was supported overwhelmingly by Maine voters, lawmakers passed a bill in 2017 that was aimed at delay and eventually repealing the initiative, despite the strong support of the reform. Activists, led by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, gathered more than 77,000 signatures to allow voters to decide the repeal question on a new referendum in the June 2018 election.
The Maine Supreme Court’s decision represents a huge victory in the name of better elections and more fair representation for the people of Maine. Such heavy pushback from a state legislature on voter reform would be enough to tople similar initiatives, but commitment from allies on the ground has resulted in what will be the first instance of ranked choice voting in a statewide election. Should the election prove successful with a majority overturning the repeal, voters in Maine will finally achieve RCV for use in future elections.