A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a statewide committee supporting the use of ranked-choice voting in the June 12 primary election should not be allowed to intervene in a pending lawsuit that seeks to block use of the voter-approved system next month.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Jon D. Levy said The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting’s participation in the lawsuit “would complicate a case that badly needs to be expedited.” Levy said the committee should instead file a friend of the court brief in support of the Secretary of State’s Office by Monday.

Earlier this month, the Maine Republican Party announced it had filed a lawsuit in Bangor seeking to block Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap from deploying the new voting system in the Republican primary.

Dunlap’s office has already printed the June 12 primary ballots and posted extensive voter education materials on the state website, putting Maine on track to become the first state in the nation to use ranked choice in a statewide election.

“In this litigation, the Secretary’s and the Committee’s goals are aligned, as the Secretary is defending the validity of the Ranked-Choice Voting Act, which the Committee supports,” Levy wrote in his ruling. “I see no indication that the Secretary will fail to put forth arguments in support of the Ranked-Choice Voting Act, that the Committee would otherwise make.”

In the ranked-choice system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no one has won more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until one candidate wins a clear majority and is declared the winner. In April, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling ordering that ranked-choice voting be used in the June 12 primary.

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