Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Maine Legislature Divided Over Ranked-Choice Voting

Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for this post.

The Maine House and Senate passed Conflicting Versions of Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) Legislation Tuesday, making the Future of the First-in-the-Nation, Voter-Approved Measure uncertain.

The Senate Voted Tuesday Morning to Repeal the entire RCV Law. The 21-13 vote comes after the State’s High Court gave an Advisory Opinion that Electing Members of the Legislature and the Governor by RCV did not Comply with the Maine Constitution, which calls for those Offices to be Selected by a Plurality of Voters.

But just moments after the Senate Action, and with no Debate, the House of Representatives voted 79-66 to Leave Parts of the Law Intact for Primary Voting and Congressional Elections. The House Bill also Leaves Open the Door to RCV for Governor and the Legislature if a Constitutional Amendment is Passed in the Future. The House Bill should please Supporters of the New Law, who said Lawmakers should Implement the Parts that were not found Unconstitutional by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in May.

The Court Issued its Unanimous Advisory Opinion after the Maine Senate asked it for Guidance in February. “The object must always be to ‘ascertain the will of the people,’” the Court wrote of the Ranked-Choice Initiative Approved by Voters. “Nonetheless, when a statute – including one enacted by citizen initiative – conflicts with a constitutional provision, the constitution prevails.”

The Advisory Opinion itself didn’t Negate RCV. Only a Legal Challenge in the Courts could do that. But the Justices did Spell out the Legislature’s Options, noting that Lawmakers could Vote to Repeal the Measure or to Initiate the Process that Leads to a Constitutional Amendment to Support RCV. But an effort to Send the Law back out for a Constitutional Amendment, which would have to be Approved by Voters in a Statewide Referendum and then Supported by a Two-Thirds Vote of Lawmakers, Failed in the Legislature last week.

Opponents of the Law have argued that Implementing Two Different Types of Voting systems in Maine will be Costly and Confusing for the State, Municipal Voting Officials, and Volunteers. Others have said Voters were Misled when they were told by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, which backed the Ballot Measure, that the New Law was fully Constitutional, when it turned out it wasn’t.

Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, said his City has used RCV for its Mayoral Elections for Six Years and neither Voters nor Election Officials have had any problems using Two Different Voting Systems. “We thought it was going to be very complicated and very difficult when we tried to implement this system to have ranked-choice voting on one side of the ballot and non-ranked-choice voting races on the other side of the ballot,” Chipman said. “Turns out that didn’t happen.”

But Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, a former Maine Secretary of State who was responsible for Statewide Elections, said Two Systems would be too Complicated and Costly to Implement Statewide. “To try to do two fundamentally different election systems at the same time, not only is that not practical, it’s totally unfair to everybody back home that works so hard to make our elections work,” Diamond said. “It just does not make sense that we try to run two elections at the same time.”

Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, said he Supported RCV, but as a Lawmaker he had Sworn an Oath to Uphold the Constitution. “I’m not willing to support us going into a constitutional crisis nor into an electoral process crisis,” Brakey said, asserting that the Only Option now is to Repeal the New Law.

Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, said Brakey was only Partially Right. “Our role is twofold,” she said. “We need to uphold and defend the constitution and I do think there is a path forward that will allow us to do that – and second and very important is to uphold the will of the people. We are elected to represent the people, not ourselves.”

More than 388,000 Voters, or 52% of those who Cast Ballots on the Question last Fall, Supported Ranked-Choice Voting.

Ranked Choice Voting Repeal Dies in Legislature on 6/28/2017. The Bill to Fully Repeal RCV for State and Non-Presidential Federal Elections Died in the Legislature Wednesday. The Legislative Session will End without any further action being taken, which means RCV is still on the Books. “It’s time to move forward with implementation,” said State Senator Dick Woodbury (I-Yarmouth), Chair of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. The Bill for a Constitutional Amendment that would bring RCV in Full Compliance with the State Constitution received Initial Approval from Both Chambers, but Failed to get the Two-Thirds Vote it needed in the Final Vote.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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