The Legislature on Oct. 24 voted to disregard the vote of 52 percent of Maine voters by postponing, and eventually repealing, the ranked-choice voting law. This law was passed a year ago this November by nearly 400,000 voters through a citizen initiative.

All of our legislators put in a lot of hours, even when not in session, for very little pay. They do this because they care and want to make laws that benefit Maine as a whole. It is a tough job, one that few can do, and they deserve a heartfelt thank-you for the personal sacrifices they make for us.

On the other hand, to quote an editorial in this newspaper, “It would (have been) much simpler if lawmakers would just listen to the people and give them the electoral system they voted for.”

Lawmakers opposed to ranked-choice voting worked all year to repeal it. They asked the Maine Supreme Court to rule ranked-choice voting unconstitutional without success. The individual justices, not the court itself, gave an opinion that ranked-choice voting might not apply to elections for governor or the Legislature. The Maine Constitution calls for a plurality in those elections, but not in all primaries and congressional elections. Then opponents attempted to repeal ranked-choice voting completely, without success.

Rep. Kent Ackley had a compromise. He proposed a bill that would allow ranked-choice voting to be used for all primaries and congressional elections but suspend it for governor and Legislature elections until the constitution could be amended to include those as well. The House voted for the bill but the Senate did not. The House then capitulated to the whims of the Senate and subsequently voted to delay, and eventually repeal, the law.

Although reinstating the ranked-choice voting law should be the goal, the larger picture is whether the Legislature is going to respect the will of the voters. So far they have not fully implemented any of the citizen initiative ballot questions that were passed a year ago. Is this what you as a Maine voter expected from your Legislature? I didn’t think so.

A people’s veto referendum has been organized to put a hold on the legal but unethical decision the Legislature made on ranked-choice voting. You will likely see volunteers at your voting place on Election Day gathering signatures for this referendum. Once the signatures are verified, ranked-choicing voting becomes law, again, and the question to approve it permanently will be on the June 2018 primary ballot.

Some people who opposed ranked-choicing voting will likely sign the petition because they feel strongly that voting is a sacred right — the Legislature cannot change what the people voted for just because they don’t like the outcome. One person I know who opposed ranked-choice voting and, on a previous ballot, background checks for gun sales is signing the people’s veto because, he argued, not implementing a law the voters passed is the same as enacting a law the voters rejected. He asked, “How would those who voted against background checks feel if the legislature voted to implement background checks that the voters rejected?”

Maine voters can repeal laws passed by the Legislature because Maine is one of only eight states to have a citizen initiative that allows a people’s veto referendum. That law is as sacred as voting. Without a people’s veto we would not have same-day voter registration today. Maine has had same-day registration since 1973, but in 2011 the Legislature voted to repeal it. A people’s veto was organized and same-day registration was restored by a 60 percent to 40 percent vote. If everyone who supports having a citizen initiative signs the petition for ranked-choice voting, we can return control of Maine’s future to the voters.

I urge you to sign the people’s veto petition at your voting place on Election Day in November, even if you do not support ranked-choice voting. Signing the petition means you expect the Legislature to not only respect your vote but to respect the vote of others as well.

It also means that when the Legislature passes a law you don’t like, you will still have the right to a people’s veto to change that law.

In June of this year the Maine House voted to make gathering referendum signatures more difficult. It has not been enacted yet, but if delaying and repealing ranked-choice voting is allowed to stand, the Legislature will become more emboldened and may repeal the citizen initiative process, and the people’s veto along with it.

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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