Supporters of an efforts to repeal ranked-choice voting carry boxes of signed petitions into the Cross Building, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. The Republican party submit more than 63,000 signatures to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap's office, hoping to force a November referendum on a 2019 law expanding the method to presidential elections. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s high court on Thursday agreed to put on hold a ruling allowing ranked-choice voting to be used in the state’s presidential election after Republicans appealed the decision to strike down a people’s veto challenge.

A panel of five judges determined on Tuesday that opponents of the law did not gather enough legal signatures to qualify for the ballot. If the law court’s ruling stands, ranked-choice voting will be used for the first time in Maine for the first time ever in a presidential race.

The court granted the Maine Republican Party’s request on Wednesday for an expedited hearing. It will take place next Friday, according to court documents. Republican petitioners said they are challenging the court’s decision over whether circulators need to be registered voters in the towns they reside in prior to beginning their work.

The Maine GOP hinted earlier this week they would challenge the decision. Party chair Demi Kouzounas said in a Thursday press release they are willing to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court “if needed.” Secretary of State Matt Dunlap plans to oppose the stay, according to a letter sent to the law court.

The battle over the referendum has played out for months in court after Dunlap determined twice that insufficient legal signatures had been collected. That, combined with a shortened circulating season caused by the Legislature’s abrupt adjournment due to the coronavirus, kept the campaign over the people’s veto from gaining ground.

It is not clear whether the method’s use is likely to affect the presidential race’s outcome in Maine. President Donald Trump, a Republican, and former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, will be joined on the state ballot by Green Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and Rocky de la Fuente of the Alliance Party. The lesser-known hopefuls have failed to gain much traction in Maine so far.