ELLSWORTH — On June 12, apart from the Democratic and Republican primary elections, Ellsworth residents will weigh in on the School Department budget (totaling $21.37 million this year) and ranked choice voting (RCV).
RCV has been the subject of much consternation since Maine voters approved its implementation via referendum in 2016.
In 2017, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued an advisory opinion that RCV was at odds with the Maine Constitution. The Maine Constitution calls for allows contests to be decided by a plurality of votes — even though that plurality may represent less than half the votes cast. RCV has contests being decided by a majority vote — 50 percent plus 1.
Citing this opinion, the state Legislature voted to delay implementation of the law until 2021, and to repeal it entirely if a constitutional amendment had not been passed by that point.
Upset by the delay, RCV supporters collected enough signatures to bring about a people’s veto of the Legislature’s action and, once again, put the question to voters.
The question will appear in the form of Question 1 on the June 12 ballot, the “People’s Veto of Ranked Choice Voting.”
Voting yes on Question 1 would repeal the parts of the law that delay implementation and require a constitutional amendment to keep ranked choice in place.
In other words, if Question 1 passes, RCV will be put in place for primary and federal elections. If successful, RCV would be used to decide some — but not all — contests this coming November. The ranked choice ballot would not be used in the voting for candidates for state offices (governor, state senator and state representative) because of the stipulation in the Maine Constitution.
Voting no on Question 1 would keep the language passed by the Legislature in 2017, delaying RCV until 2021 and requiring a constitutional amendment be passed to keep the law.
Turnout is generally low in June referendums, ranging between 2 to 21 percent of registered voters in Ellsworth, according to the registrar’s 2011 through 2017 reports.
In 2017, 612 ballots were cast by Ellsworth’s registered voters (a 10 percent turnout). The school budget was approved 399 votes to 210.