AUGUSTA, Maine — Ranked-choice voting will be used in Maine’s June primary elections, the state’s high court ruled on Tuesday in a massive win for supporters of the first-in-the-nation system that has faced constitutional scrutiny and run a political gauntlet in the Legislature.
The decision from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court allows Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to continue implementing the system for gubernatorial and congressional primaries just before his office needs to finalize state ballots for printing to go to overseas voters later this month.
Implementation of the law lurched into limbo after the court advised last year that the system was partially unconstitutional as it pertains to general elections in state races. Primaries and congressional elections weren’t addressed in that advisory opinion.
The Maine Legislature passed a bill in October that could delay ranked-choice voting until 2021, but the system will be used in the primaries because supporters launched a people’s veto drive to nix that law. Voters will also decide on the people’s veto in the June election.
In a unanimous decision, the high court ruled that ranked-choice voting “is the law of Maine” for the June primaries, throwing out the Republican-led Maine Senate’s questions about whether Dunlap can spend unallocated money on administering the system and hiring private couriers to transport ballots to Augusta for counting — both parts of his plan to implement the law.
Katherine Knox, an attorney for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, which led the 2016 referendum that passed the system, said in a statement that the decision “put to bed lingering questions” about the system’s use in primary and federal elections. A spokeswoman for Dunlap said he was reviewing the decision and would comment on Wednesday.