Ranked Choice Voting: the people’s choice

NOTE: This alert went out to League members and the public today.

The Maine people passed Ranked Choice Voting (Ballot Issue #5) in November. Now, instead of enacting the law, Maine legislators are proposing to subvert regular order by asking for the courts to weigh in. (more on that here)

The League of Women Voters of Maine is encouraging legislators to follow regular process and respect the will of the people. Find out why – and what you can do to help – below…


Dear Members and Friends of LWVME,

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) was approved by voters last November. It’s the law of the State of Maine.  The League has been a strong supporter of RCV since we endorsed the policy in 2011, and we continue to support full and robust implementation of the law for 2018.

This week, the Maine State Senate is expected to consider a procedural move — as early as today — that would call into question the constitutionality of Maine’s Ranked Choice Voting law.  The Senate will vote on whether to ask the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for a solemn occasion, under which the Court might issue an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of RCV. yesonfive

While we have not seen the actual question that the Senate will pose to the Court, we think the solemn occasion is inappropriate at this time and that the Legislature should focus on implementing the will of the voters without delay.

We believe:

  • The enacted law has the presumption of constitutionality.
  • The Legislature should honor the will of the people and proceed to implement this law in full for 2018.
  • If the Legislature had passed this law, they would presume it to be constitutional; they should apply the same standard to a law passed by the voters.
  • The standard for a solemn occasion is very high in order to preserve the separation of powers between the judicial and the legislative branches.
  • The regular order should be preserved. The Court should not be asked to weigh in prior to the implementation of the law.
  • If an aggrieved party chooses to raise a legal challenge after 2018, it will be addressed by the courts then.  But it is not clear that such a challenge will be raised then or ever.

If the Senate votes to make such a request of the Court, the Court will have to decide first whether the current circumstance rises to the high bar for a solemn occasion.  If it does not, there is no further action required of the Court.  If the Court does find a solemn occasion exists, it will issue an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of the new law. An adverse opinion would not strike down the law but would advise the Senate whether action might be needed by the Legislature to clear the constitutional impediment.

While we believe the constitutional arguments are strong in favor of RCV, as we have stated previously, we understand that the question of RCV constitutionality is not settled law.  We believe the solemn occasion will not firmly settle that question and is out of order.

There may be some occasions where the Court should weigh in on a legislative issue, but this is not one of them. The law has been duly enacted by the people, and we have not seen a legitimate need for a legislative question to the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of a law already on the books — especially one enacted by the people.

Please call your Senator at (207) 287-1540 and tell him/her to reject the call for a solemn occasion.

Please stay tuned to keep abreast of developments over the next few days and weeks.


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