Maine Legislators Revolt Against Will of the People

Created: 24 January, 2017
Updated: 17 October, 2022
2 min read

In 2016, the people of Maine voted for a historic election reform measure at the state level: ranked choice voting. RCV, also known as instant runoff voting, allows voters to rank candidates by preference instead of choosing only one. To explain how votes are tabulated and how the system works, watch this video:

The proponents of the measure argued ardently that this type of election system lets people have more choice when it comes to voting for their preferred candidate, because it eliminates the issue of tactical voting. “I like candidate 1, but they have no chance, so I will just vote for candidate 2 so that candidate 3 doesn’t win.”

Sound familiar? Odds are, this is how you vote.

But what does RCV mean for the two-party system, and established politicians? It means that independent, third party candidates, and outsiders have a better chance, because the argument that “I’m the Democrat. I’m the safe choice to keep the Republican out,” and vice versa, all of a sudden doesn’t hold as much weight.

Maybe that’s why the president of the Senate has decided to call for a vote to determine whether courts should rule on the “constitutionality” of the law.

The issue seems to stem from Maine’s constitution mandating that candidates only need a plurality of votes to win, while RCV actually calls for a majority of votes.

The constitutionality concern does have some weight to it, and having the supreme court justice rule on it, so that legislators may then determine if they need to amend the constitution or repeal the ranked choice voting law altogether also seems reasonable to some.

But the problem is, the people already voted on this. They already decided that they want to use this system to elect their representatives. Furthermore, the same state constitution affirms that an amendment to it would only need a simple majority vote of the people – which Ranked Choice Voting already got.

Another interesting fact is that the legislature has the power to amend the constitution according to Article IV, Section 15 of the Maine Constitution.

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This, also poses an interesting question. If some of the elected representatives in the legislature thought that it was unconstitutional to begin with, why didn’t they legislate accordingly to get the appropriate wording into the initiative?

Seems like a better way of dealing with this issues like this right? Might as well deal with this issue in its inception.

If the law goes to the Maine Supreme Court, the justices would then decide its constitutionality. If they deem it unconstitutional, it would fall upon the Legislature to either change the initiative or amend the constitution probably delaying it from being in effect for the 2018 elections.

Is there a legitimate concern about the constitutionality of the now approved election reform or is this just another example of partisanship suppressing reform? You be the judge.

Photo Credit: jiawangkun / shutterstock.com

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