Independent US Senator Angus King says Maine lawmakers should respect the will of the people and uphold the November election results by rejecting full repeal of ranked choice voting.
Mainers sent a message to state lawmakers in November that they want better elections and a more accountable government in Augusta. Ranked choice voting was approved by 388,273 voters -- the second-largest referendum victory in Maine’s history. It won a majority in 86 Maine House districts and 20 State Senate districts.
Now, the knee-jerk reaction from several partisan lawmakers is full repeal of the will of the people because the state Supreme Court issued a non-binding advisory opinion in May that the statute didn't align with a state law that deals specifically with general elections for governor, state Senate, and state House.
Sen. King, who also served two terms as Maine governor, told Maine Public's Mal Leary Tuesday that full repeal would have a devastating impact on the people's trust in democracy and politics in Maine.
“My fundamental concern is not making worse this kind of distrust of government and politics and politicians,” said King.
“To simply say well there is a constitutional problem with this so we are just going to forget it, I think they ought — my inclination would be to give the people a chance to make that decision themselves.” - US Senator Angus King (I-ME)
To be clear, the state Supreme Court said the ranked choice voting statute, as approved by Maine voters, conflicted with a state constitutional provision that allows candidates to win with a plurality of the vote in three state elections. However, for most elections -- including primary and federal elections -- there is no constitutional issue.
Two bills emerged after the court's opinion:
- LD 1624 calls for an amendment to the state constitution to allow ranked choice voting to be used in all state and federal elections. If passed, the matter would go before Maine voters.
- LD 1625 calls for full repeal of the ranked choice voting statute.
The first bill would require two-thirds approval from the legislature, while the second only requires a simple majority. Sen. King wants Maine lawmakers to reject full repeal, find middle ground, and give voters the final say on a constitutional amendment for ranked choice voting.
"Senator King is one of the most popular political figures in the state of Maine. He is respected across the aisle, and we are very appreciative of his comments," said Kyle Bailey, campaign manager for Yes on 5 (RCV Maine).
People following the developments on Maine ranked choice voting in news snippets and online only get the black and white picture of what is happening. It is portrayed as either we amend the constitution or ranked choice voting dies now.
However, there is a middle-of-the-road approach that both respects the constitutional concerns for state offices and the will of the people.
State Sen. Mike Carpenter introduced a proposal before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that calls on state lawmakers to move forward with ranked choice voting in the elections where there is no constitutional conflict. Then, bring it in full compliance with the state constitution for the remaining elections.
Interesting to note, Sen. Carpenter opposed Question 5 in the November election. However, he believes the will of the people should be respected and state lawmakers should do everything they can to honor the election results."I think the more lawmakers focus on this , the more they are going to see the merits of moving forward in that direction," said Bailey.
Both LD 1624 and 1625 are currently before the State Senate's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. The committee held a public hearing last week. Not a single Maine voter spoke out in favor of full repeal, and more legislators testified in favor of amending the constitution over repeal.
RCV Maine has generated over 1,000 calls, emails, and conversations with state lawmakers in the last few weeks in support of preserving ranked choice voting. Bailey believes that between lobbying efforts, public hearings, and the conversations being had, momentum is shifting in their favor.
"We continue to let Maine voters know about the opportunities to contact their state senators and state representatives, to write a letter to the editor, to let their friends on social media know what is happening here and encourage them to join them in taking action against full repeal of ranked choice voting. It is a knee-jerk reaction that disrespects Maine people," said Bailey.