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Man Who Literally Wrote the Book on Maine Constitution Defends Ranked Choice Voting

by Thomas A. Hawk, published

Marshall Tinkle wrote a piece in the Bangor Daily News Thursday arguing that not only does ranked choice voting not violate the Maine Constitution, Maine does not permit the state's Supreme Court from issuing an advisory opinion on the matter.

What makes Marshall Tinkle such an expert on the Maine Constitution? Well, for one thing, he literally wrote the book on it. Tinkle, who practices law in Portland, is the author of the reference book, The Maine State Constitution.

In his piece, Tinkle addresses 3 questions:

  • Does ranked-choice voting violate the “sort, count, declare” provisions in the Maine Constitution?
  • Does ranked-choice voting violate the “plurality provisions” in Maine’s Constitution?
  • Does ranked-choice voting violate the provision in the Maine Constitution for breaking a tie in a gubernatorial election?

In simple terms, Tinkle explains why opponents of ranked choice voting have a weak argument to make on all three questions. Further, he says the constitution does not permit the high court to issue an advisory opinion on the matter regardless.

CONTINUE READING: Nothing in the ranked-choice voting law violates the Maine Constitution

What is before the Maine Supreme Court is a ballot measure that was approved by a majority of voters. Yet, lawmakers and government officials on both sides of the aisle don't want to see it go into effect.

"We — the people of Maine — have the right to direct democracy," Tinkle writes. "We exercised that right when we proposed and approved ranked-choice voting as a better system for electing our leaders. Unless a voting procedure is expressly banned by our Constitution, it should not be construed as inhibiting attempts to improve the electoral system."

Tinkle also filed a responsive brief to the Supreme Court on the matter in March:

[The state constitution] broadly lays out a few basic steps in the ballot aggregation process designed to foster accuracy, transparency, and integrity so that the election results will reflect the will of the electors. There is no evidence that ranked-choice voting will impede any of these goals. To the contrary, it is designed to better reflect the popular will in the election results.

The Maine Supreme Court heard oral argument on ranked choice voting Thursday morning. State lawmakers challenging ranked choice voting are hoping the justices will give them justification to not implement the voter-approved, alternative voting method.

Photo Credit: Black Jack /

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