Members of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court hear arguments on ranked-choice voting in April 2017 at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. Credit: File

The urgent question of whether ranked-choice voting can be used in Maine’s June 12 primary is headed for the Maine Supreme Judicial Court amid legal maneuvering that the plaintiffs’ attorney called a “one-of-a-kind case.”

Attorneys for the Maine Senate — which filed a suit last week seeking to stop ranked-choice voting — and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, have been working for days on crafting the questions that they want the law court to decide specifically regarding the legality of ranked-choice voting. The questions were agreed upon, and Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy said Wednesday afternoon that she would transmit the case to the law court.

“We owe the people of Maine as much certainty as we can provide as they go to the polls on June 12 and that the confidence of the people of Maine in the election process has to be assured to the greatest extent possible by answering these questions as soon as possible,” Murphy said.

The clock is ticking. Dunlap’s office has said that deadlines for designing and printing ballots to send to overseas absentee voters could be as soon as the end of next week. Maine law mandates that overseas voters have the ballots by April 27.

The law court will consider seven questions, including whether the Senate — which voted narrowly earlier this month to file the suit — has standing for its lawsuit and whether a decision by the court would settle the matter. Also up for consideration are whether Dunlap has the authority to use his existing budget to implement ranked-choice voting and whether he has the authority to order ballots transported to Augusta for tallying.

According to attorney Tim Woodcock, who is representing the Senate, if the law court rejects the case, a previous order by Murphy to go forward with ranked-choice voting in the primary would still be in effect.

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Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.