Maine’s landmark ranked choice voting (RCV) law is headed to court.

Yes on 5On Thursday, February 2, the Maine Senate voted to ask the state Supreme Court for a solemn occasion regarding the constitutionality of the law. The Court would first decide whether to grant the solemn occasion, and if so, would rule on the constitutional questions posed by the Senate.

On Tuesday, February 7, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued its briefing schedule for the solemn occasion:

  • Briefs are due March 3.
  • Responsive briefs are due March 17.
  • Oral argument is April 13.

You can read the full procedural order here.

Prior to the oral argument the Court will receive legal briefs from proponents and opponents of RCV and any other interested persons. The court also invited briefs from the governor, secretary of state, both houses of the legislature, and the attorney general. LWVME will be there. The League is being represented by an outstanding team of litigators from Verrill Dana. With their help, we are preparing to submit a brief arguing in support of the law.

This legal proceeding – known in Maine as a “solemn occasion” – is a rare exception to the general rule that courts should not engage in legal analysis other than that which is necessary to decide regular cases brought by opposing parties and litigated through the lower courts. Read more about the RCV solemn occasion at our website.

Opinions in solemn occasion cases are not binding and are merely “advisory.”  But the Court’s opinion could have repercussions for any future decisions of the legislature regarding full implementation of the law for the 2018 cycle.  And it would foreshadow how the Court would apply the law in the event of a challenge during or after the 2018 election.

The RCV law approved by voters in November 2016 applies to races for governor, the Maine legislature, and Congress.  Some of the arguments against the law apply only to the state races.

Oral argument in the RCV case begins at 8:30 a.m. on April 13 and will be open to the public at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, 205 Newbury Street, Portland, ME 04101-4125.


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