After two petition drives, an electoral victory, two court cases and untold legislative opposition and indifference, the June primary election in Maine will be run under ranked-choice voting. Now it is up to lawmakers and the secretary of state to make sure it runs smoothly, regardless of where they stand on the issue.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday said ranked-choice voting is the law in Maine, and that Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has the authority to spend state revenue to implement the voting system for the June 12 primary.

That clears the final hurdle for ranked-choice voting, which was approved at the polls in November 2016 with 52 percent of the vote.

Some lawmakers, mostly Republicans but some Democrats, were concerned over conflicts between the law and the Maine Constitution but refused to move forward with a compromise on a remedy. Instead, the Legislature gutted the law.

Read more Portland Press Herald editorials[/mtm-related-link]However, ranked-choice voting supporters went back to the streets, collecting enough signatures to essentially repeal the Legislature’s actions. That means Maine voters on June 12 will both use ranked-choice voting to select winners in a number of races and, in a separate referendum question, decide whether ranked-choice voting will be used for some races in future elections.

For everyone but Portland voters, who have used ranked-choice voting in two mayoral elections without any problems, it represents a new way of doing things. It is incumbent on state leaders to make sure that Mainers enter the voting booth on June 12 with the information they need to fill out the ballot correctly, and leave feeling confident that their wishes have been articulated correctly.


That’s what Mainers said they wanted in November 2016, and that’s what they should have. After that referendum passed, the Legislature waited to debate the matter, then failed to either fix technical problems with the law or allow voters to do so. As a result, the matter wasn’t settled until just a few weeks before the election.

It is unprecedented, and it puts opponents of ranked-choice voting in what they should recognize as a delicate situation. Up until now, their opposition has been political, aimed at defeating ranked-choice voting first in the 2016 referendum and then again in the legislative session.

Now, as opponents argue against keeping ranked-choice voting for the long haul, they also run the risk of undermining the June primary. Claims about its supposed complexity and all the chaos it will bring are no longer just exaggerations – they are possibly destructive, sowing enough doubt for some Maine voters to wonder if the election results are legitimate, or providing enough ammunition for a cynical losing candidate to raise a ruckus.

The time for those arguments is over. Ranked-choice voting will be used in June – there is no doubt about that now. All that’s left is to make sure it works in June and, if the voters approve, going forward.

If at that point any problems surface, we can only hope the Legislature will finally figure out that it is their job to fix them.

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