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'Momentum for Better Elections' as Maine Supreme Court Approves Ranked-Choice Voting for 2018 Elections

Decision by the Maine Supreme Court confirms that voters "are sovereign and have the final say"

After an historic decision by Maine's Supreme Court, starting with primary elections in June, the state's voters will be able to rank their selections in the voting booth. (Photo: Michael R/Flickr/cc)

Election reform advocates on Wednesday praised a decision by Maine's Supreme Court, upholding the use of ranked-choice voting for the state's upcoming primary elections, saying the ruling demonstrated that the court heeded the demands of Maine voters.

"Mainers have said clearly that they want election reform and they want it now," State House Speaker Sara Gideon told the Portland Press Herald. "The court has been clear in their ruling that ranked-choice voting is the law of the land."

Unlike in traditional voting, in which the candidate with the largest share of votes wins—even if he or she is far from capturing a majority of the support—in ranked choice voting, voters rank each candidate in order of preference. If no candidate has a majority after the first count, the least-popular contender is eliminated, voters' ballots are added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots are recounted. The eliminations and recounts continue until one candidate has a majority.

Supporters of the system say it increases voter turnout and proportional representation.

Maine's June 12 multi-party primary elections, in which voters will choose candidates for governor and congressional districts, will now make history as the first state election to use ranked-choice voting.

Fifty-two percent of Maine voters supported the system in a November 2016 ballot initiative, but lawmakers passed a bill last year delaying its implementation until December 2021 and argued that the state could not use a new voting system without direction from the legislature. The state Senate also threatened to repeal ranked-choice voting altogether if it could not pass a constitutional amendment by then.

More than 77,000 Maine residents signed a petition saying any repeal of the system by the legislature should be voided.

"The Maine legislature has changed or repealed all four of the initiatives passed by Maine voters in 2016," said Kyle Bailey of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting in a statement on Tuesday. "Today's decision by the Maine Supreme Court confirms that the Maine people are sovereign and have the final say."

"I am hopeful that the Secretary of State can now carry out this June's election without further interference," said Gideon.

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