Judge Tosses Maine GOP’s Complaint Against Ranked Choice Voting

US District Court Judge Jon D. Levy threw out the Maine Republican Party’s legal complaint against ranked choice voting Tuesday. It’s yet another legal challenge the election reform has survived in the rocky road to the June primary elections.

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Judge Levy said the Maine GOP’s claim that the ranked choice voting law violated its associational rights doesn’t hold water against the state’s constitutional authority to sponsor and regulate elections.

“Pursuant to their interest in ensuring fair elections, states may regulate ‘the time, place, and manner of holding primary and general elections, [as well as] the registration and qualifications of voters, and the selection and qualification of candidates.’ Storer, 415 U.S. at 730.” – Judge Jon D. Levy

The Maine GOP sought a preliminary injunction against ranked choice voting, but failed to prove that RCV posed “severe burdens” on its First Amendment rights. Judge Levy stated that:

  1. The Supreme Court has only upheld a private political party’s right to decide who can be excluded in the party’s primary elections (though this itself is not without limitations), and the right to control internal governance. This case doesn’t affect either.
  2. “The RCV Act regulates a facet of the primary election—the ballot—which is external to issues of party governance and processes, and therefore falls within the ambit of the State’s regulatory powers.”

“Moreover, nominees selected through the primary process are not just party leaders, they are potential public officials. This necessarily imbues the selection process with a substantial external, public interest,” Judge Levy writes.

The judge further said that the “Maine GOP is free to change its rules to account for that effect if it is dissatisfied with whatever effect, if any, the RCV Act has on the composition of its State Committee.”

Other than that, the party has no ground to stand on to prevent ranked choice voting from being used in the June primary elections, nor are private political parties given the right to individually dictate how primary election ballots are constructed or counted.

Maine will hold its primary elections on June 12. It will be the first time any state has used ranked choice voting for state, US House, and US Senate elections.

Read the judge’s full decision:

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