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Maine Supreme Court Reaffirms Ranked-Choice Voting For Presidential Election

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press/file
In this Nov. 12, 2018 file photo, ballot boxes are brought into for a ranked choice voting tabulation in Augusta, Maine.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has rejected a request to suspend its earlier decision allowing ranked-choice voting to be used in the state’s fall presidential election.

The legal issue raised by Republicans was whether Maine’s law on circulating petitions is constitutional, but the practical impact of any court-ordered stay would have been to block the use of ranked-choice voting in Maine this November.

Assistant State Attorney General Phyllis Gardener’s argument before the law court Thursday, that thousands of votes have already been cast, was cited by the justices in their decision issued later in the day.

“This isn’t about the secretary of state, it’s really about the voters, and you cannot mitigate the harm to voters who could be disenfranchised because they have voted by the ranked-choice method and that method is changed,” she said.

President Donald Trump’s attorney Patrick Strawbridge acknowledged the potential problems but argued that allowing the decision to stand pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court would disenfranchise petitioners.

“The burden is not to essentially reverse the court’s judgment, it’s to convince the court we have a strong possibility or a strong likelihood of success on the merits. So that’s our question here, when you look at the landscape here, I think we have a strong chance of convincing the Supreme Court that we are correct,” he said.

Even though the law court has rejected Strawbridge’s request, the U.S. Supreme Court could order the law suspended if it decides to consider the appeal.

Updated 4:10 p.m. Oct. 1, 2020.

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