Judge hears arguments on new lawsuit targeting ranked voting
BANGOR, Maine (AP) — A federal judge who heard arguments in a new lawsuit targeting Maine's ranked-choice voting said he'll likely...
BANGOR, Maine (AP) — A federal judge who heard arguments in a new lawsuit targeting Maine's ranked-choice voting said he'll likely rule next week.
The lawsuit contends the voting system disenfranchises old and uneducated voters who don't understand how it works and therefore select only a first choice without ranking the rest of the candidates.
Professor Nolan McCarty, who teaches politics and public affairs at Princeton University, testified Thursday that “there seems to be a substantial number of people” who don't understand the system, the Portland Press Herald reported.
But Thomas Knowlton, an assistant attorney general, said it's unclear why older voters might be truncating their ballots, suggesting it’s a leap to conclude they don’t understand the system.
U.S. District Judge Lance Walker, the same judge who previously upheld the voting system, is being asked to strike down the voting system ahead of the November general election.
The goal of ranked choice voting is to ensure a majority winner without the need for an additional runoff election.
The system approved by voters in 2016 allows — but does not require — people to rank candidates from first to last on the ballot.
A candidate who reaches 50% or more in the first round of voting is declared the winner. If there’s no majority, then there are additional tabulations, aided by computers, in which last-place finishers are eliminated and those voters’ second choices are reallocated to the remaining field.
Then-U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin sued after winning the first round of votes but ultimately losing the election to Democrat Jared Golden after an additional round of tabulations in 2018.
Walker upheld the state’s ranked choice voting law in that case, saying that critics can question the wisdom of ranked choice voting, but such criticism “falls short of constitutional impropriety.”
Walker told the parties he would likely issue a ruling by the middle of next week.
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