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Proposal to Amend Ranked-Choice Voting Issues Dies in State Senate

A proposal designed to remedy Republican objections to implementing Maine's landmark ranked-choice voting law has died after a tie vote in the Maine Senate.

The Republican-led Senate is currently suing the secretary of state because it says it doesn't have the authority, or the funding, to set up the system for the June primary elections.

During Thursday's floor debate, Republican Sen. Roger Katz, of Augusta, said the legal complaint raises constitutional issues that could be headed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

"Until the court finds that our argument is not valid – which they may, I don't think they're going to, but they may – we can't be passing legislation in violation of the constitution," he said.

Democratic Sen. Mike Carpenter, of Houlton, said his proposal would fix that problem by giving a legislative committee the task of drafting a bill that would clarify the secretary of state's authority, while providing funding.

"If we really are concerned with fixing a problem that I frankly don't think exists, but that's fine, let's fix it. That's what we do," said Carpenter.

Carpenter's order was defeated after all but one Senate Republican voted against it. Democratic Sen. Dawn Hill was absent from the vote.

Republicans said the proposal was unnecessary because their legal complaint could land before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

On Wednesday a Superior Court judge ordered the secretary of state to continue implementing the law for the June primary.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.