Making Democracy Work

Moot Court on Ranked Choice Voting

Moot Court on Ranked Choice Voting in Maine

Some people, including members of the League of Women Voters, would like to see ranked choice voting used in Maine's statewide elections. However, even some proponents worry that there may be an obstacle: the Maine Constitution stipulates that the governor and legislature be elected by "a plurality of all votes."

Would ranked choice voting be constitutional in Maine?

In February, 2014, The League of Women Voters of Maine convened a Moot Court to explore the constitutionality of ranked choice voting in Maine. We invited members of Maine's legal and public-policy community to hear the arguments, weigh in, and discuss the issues with the advocates and the panel.

We were extremely pleased to have a distinguished panel for this event:

  • Catherine R. Connors of Pierce Atwood
  • James T. Kilbreth of Dummond Woodsum
  • Hon. Daniel E. Wathen of Pierce Atwood

The advocates for and against the question were Timothy Shannon of Verrill Dana and John Brautigam of John Brautigam Esq. LLC. Our moderator was H. Cabanne Howard. Here is Tim's Brief for the Appellee. And here is John's Brief for the Appellant.

Both sides were very well represented. Audience members were polled prior to the arguments and then again after the arguments. These polls revealed no strong consensus among the attendees. After the arguments, the number of undecided votes was greatly reduced, but opinion was still split equally between the Yes and No groups.

The illustrious panel reached a unanimous conclusion that Ranked Choice Voting would not be constitutional in Maine.

You can listen to an audio recording of the Moot Court event here.

Although the moot court panel found as they did, lawyers in and out of Maine continue to be divided on the question. Judge Wathen, for one, was interviewed later, and said, "The case is one on which reasonable minds can and do differ." He conceded that the arguments in favor of RCV constitutionality were persuasive and that the case might be winnable.

In addition, almost two years later, panelist Jamie Kilbreth issued a memo indicating that he had concluded RCV would be constitutional. Here's that memo. You can read more arguments by proponents at rcvmaine.com.

In March, 2016, Maine's Attorney General issued a letter in response to a legislative inquiry indicating that she felt RCV raised significant constitutional issues.

In January, 2016, the League issued this statement regarding the constitutionality of RCV in Maine.