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Maine Supreme Court Says Ranked Choice Voting Does Not Comply with State Constitution

Created: 23 May, 2017
Updated: 17 October, 2022
2 min read

The Maine Supreme Court released its advisory opinion on the constitutionality of ranked choice voting Tuesday. On the question of whether or not the alternative voting method violates the plurality clause in the Maine Constitution, the justices ruled in the affirmative.

Further, the justices ruled that since ranked choice voting was adopted through statute, rather than a constitutional amendment, the conflict between the statute and the language of the constitution presents a solemn occasion to give their advisory opinion.

Here are some of the facts:

  • Maine state law currently says that candidates only need to get a plurality of the vote to win an election. The justices ruled that since ranked choice voting requires plurality winners to go through additional runoffs in the election, the alternative voting method is in conflict with the language of the Maine Constitution.
  • This is an advisory opinion and is not binding legal precedent.
  • Maine has one of the oldest direct democracy initiative processes in the country.
  • The majority of Maine voters passed ranked choice voting in 2016 under Question 5, over opposition from Republican and Democratic leaders.
  • Maine's effort to implement ranked choice voting is viewed by many election reform experts as one of the most significant accomplishments in nonpartisan election reform. It fundamentally changed the way elections are conducted, providing voters a pathway for third party and independent candidates to be elected.

"This ruling by the Maine court is testament to the institutional hurdles that have been erected by the two major parties to insulate themselves from true competition," says Independent Voter Project attorney Chad Peace. "Democrats that believe in Democracy should be concerned. Republicans that believe in representation should be paying closer attention. Everyone, regardless  of their party, should be thinking about how our elections are conducted, and connecting that conduct to the quality of our representation.”

Read IVN's past coverage of RCV Maine:

Maine Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on Ranked Choice Voting

Maine RCV Defense: Politicians Try to Undermine the People’s Rights

Underhanded! Maine Politicians Sneaky Move to Undermine Ranked Choice Voting

Ranked Choice Voting Advocates Celebrate Historic Victory in Maine

Read the court's opinion: