Thursday, April 12, 2018

ME RCV Case Update

Maine Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy pushed the Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) Case brought on behalf of the Senate by Senate President Mike Thibodeau to the High Court Wednesday afternoon. Because of the quickly approaching Election and more quickly approaching Deadlines to prepare Ballots, this Case is expected to move rapidly, if the Justices agree to take it up at all.

If they do, they’ll consider Seven Questions, which Attorneys on both sides of the Case, plus Intervenors from the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, have agreed to as accurate.

- Has the Senate proven that the Secretary of State’s Office has the Authority to Implement RCV for the Primary with Money it already has? Or does the Separation of Powers Clause in the Maine Constitution or Language in the 2017 Biennial Budget Bill, which doesn’t reference RCV, prevent that?

- Has the Senate proven that the Secretary of State has No Authority to Order another Entity, such as the Department of Corrections or Private Couriers, to Retrieve and Transport Ballots and Voting Data from Municipalities to Augusta for RCV Tallying?

- Has the Senate proven that Maine Law, including portions that a Pending People’s Veto attempt to seeks to Change, Prohibits RCV in the Primary because of References to a Win by “plurality” instead of “majority”?

- Has the Senate, which Voted along largely Party Lines last week to File this Suit, Proven that it has Legal Standing in the matter?

- Has the Senate proven that this Case is “justiciable under the political question doctrine”? (That’s legalese for, “Is the Maine Supreme Judicial Court the right forum for this decision?”).

- Has the Senate proven that its Legal Claims are “ripe for adjudication”? That basically means, do the Current Circumstances make this the Right Time for this Legal Challenge?

- Has the Senate identified a “cause of action” for its Legal Claims? In other words, do the Facts support the Senate’s Action against the Secretary of State?

There are a variety of possible Outcomes, undoubtedly more than here, understand, and can List. But they include the Court Striking Down RCV Law, Upholding it as Written, Flagging Constitutional Conflicts with Specific Elements of the Law, or Refusing to Rule on it. The latter Option would leave in place Murphy’s previous Order for the Secretary of State’s Office to move forward with Implementation.

While this is all going on, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s Office is working under the Assumption that RCV will be used for the Primary. On Monday, his Office provided fresh estimates regarding the Costs involved to Lawmakers on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. Dunlap wrote that with the Election bearing down, Instructions for Voters will appear on the State’s Website, but “we no longer expect to be able to undertake additional voter outreach efforts” that would have cost an estimated $50,000 this year.

Supporters of RCV are decrying the lack of a Public Education Campaign, which they say could cause serious Confusion at the Voting Booth. Opponents say the Confusion is Inherent in the Law.

Those Factors have Reduced the Secretary of State’s additional Costs related to RCV in the Primary from about $140,000 to about $80,000, which doesn’t include Expenses that would accrue regardless of what Voting method is used. In light of the Unsettled issue of having Department of Public Safety Staff Transport Ballots, Dunlap wrote that he would consider hiring Private Couriers. He estimates that after the previously listed Expenses, his Office would have about $32,000 left, which should be enough to Hire the Couriers.

There are a ton of moving parts that are interconnected here and numerous Entities fighting to have their Opinions supported.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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