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Lawmakers Question Constitutionality of Ranked Choice Voting

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate has tabled the citizen-initiated bill that would create a ranked choice voting process in the state, including when electing the governor.

Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, a Republican from Lisbon Falls, says the state constitution spells out that the governor can be elected with a plurality, so the proposal may not be constitutional.

“We have the responsibility as a Legislature to look at bills that are presented to us, whether they be from Legislatures, the governor or the people,” he says. “And, we believe this particular bill has some constitutional issues.”

Mason says Attorney General Janet Mills will be asked for her opinion on the constitutionality of the proposal, and the Senate has not ruled out asking the state Supreme Court to take up the question.

“Constitution clearly states that the governor can be elected by a plurality — a plurality is not 50 percent,” Mason says. “Sometimes it is 30 percent, sometimes 35 percent. So we want the opportunity to look at that — possibly have the attorney general weigh with an opinion on that.”

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.