SENATE'S REQUEST FOR OPINION OF THE JUSTICES

(RANKED-CHOICE VOTING)

Oral Argument Recording

The audio recording of the oral argument on April 13, 2017, is now available:

Stream the audio recording

Download the audio recording (mp3) (right-click link and choose option to download or save)

The following attorneys argued:

On the issue of whether the Senate’s questions present a “solemn occasion”:

  • Timothy Woodcock, Esq., of Eaton Peabody, Bangor, argued on behalf of the Maine State Senate
  • Phyllis Gardiner, Assistant Attorney General, argued on behalf of the Attorney General and the Secretary of State
  • James Kilbreth, Esq., of Drummond Woodsum, Portland, argued on behalf of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting

On the merits of the questions propounded:

  • Joshua Dunlap, Esq., of Pierce Atwood, Portland, argued on behalf of the House Republican Caucus and the Maine Heritage Policy Center
  • Phyllis Gardiner, Assistant Attorney General, argued on behalf of the Attorney General and the Secretary of State
  • James Kilbreth, Esq., of Drummond Woodsum, Portland, argued on behalf of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting
  • Rachel Wertheimer, Esq., of Verrill Dana, Portland, argued on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Maine and the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections

All information on the Senate's request for an opinion of the Justices, including all filings and schedules, will be posted on this page. The Clerk's office will not be able to provide any additional information.

On February 7, 2017, the Maine State Senate submitted the following questions to the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, pursuant to Article VI, Section 3 of the Maine Constitution, regarding An Act to Establish Ranked-Choice Voting, which was approved by Maine voters on November 8, 2016, pursuant to Article IV, Part Third, Section 18 of the Maine Constitution:

Question 1. Does the Act's requirement that the Secretary of State count the votes centrally
in multiple rounds conflict with the provisions of the Constitution of Maine that require that the
city and town officials sort, count, declare and record the votes in elections for Representative,
Senator and Governor as provided in the Constitution of Maine, Article IV, Part First, Section 5,
Article IV, Part Second, Section 3 and Article V, Part First, Section 3?

Question 2. Does the method of ranked-choice voting established by the Act in elections for
Representative, Senator and Governor violate the provisions of the Constitution of Maine, Article
IV, Part First, Section 5, Article IV, Part Second, Sections 3 and 4 and Article V, Part First,
Section 3, respectively, which declare that the person elected shall be the candidate who receives
a plurality of all the votes counted and declared by city and town officials as recorded on lists
returned to the Secretary of State?

Question 3. Does the requirement in the Act that a tie between candidates for Governor in
the final round of counting be decided by lot conflict with the provisions of the Constitution of
Maine, Article V, Part First, Section 3 relating to resolution of a tie vote for Governor by the
House of Representatives and Senate?

The Justices have issued a procedural order establishing the process that they will use to consider the questions. Briefs are due by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 3, 2017, with responsive briefs permitted by noon on Friday, March 17, 2017.

Oral argument will be held on Thursday, April 13, 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in Courtroom 7 (the historic ceremonial courtroom) of the Capital Judicial Center, 1 Court Street, Augusta. [Note that location of oral argument on April 13 has changed since the issuance of the original procedural order. It will be held at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.]

 

Major documents:
  • Submitted questions:
    • Senate Order SO0012, dated February 2, 2017 (submitted questions)
      • Letter from Attorney General Janet T. Mills to Senate President Michael D. Thibodeau dated March 4, 2016 (submitted with Senate Order SO0012)

  • Procedural orders:

  • Briefs filed:
    • Brief of Dmitri Bam, Associate Professor of Law, University of Maine School of Law, Portland
    • Brief of the Maine House Republican Caucus and Maine Heritage Policy Center
    • Brief of Marshall J. Tinkle, Thomson, MacColl & Bass, LLC, Portland
    • Brief of the Attorney General
    • Brief of the Maine State Senate
    • Brief of the Secretary of State
    • Brief of Larry Diamond, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, California
    • Brief of Senators Troy Jackson, Mark Dion, Shenna Bellows, Ben Chipman, Justin Chenette, Rebecca Millett, David Miramant, and Eloise Vitelli
    • Brief of FairVote
    • Brief of the League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections
    • Brief of The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting
    • Reply brief of the Attorney General
    • Reply brief of the Secretary of State
    • Reply brief of the Maine State Senate
    • Reply brief of Marshall J. Tinkle, Thomson, MacColl & Bass, LLC, Portland
    • Reply brief of League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections
    • Reply brief of FairVote
    • Reply brief of the Maine House Republican Caucus and Maine Heritage Policy Center
    • Reply brief of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting



All documents in order received or issued (most recent at top):

  • Issued April 10, 2017: Letter from Chief Justice to counsel and individuals who filed briefs, making disclosure and requesting response.
  • Issued March 30, 2017: Letter from Clerk to counsel and individuals who filed briefs, asking for input on plan for oral argument.
  • Received March 17, 2017:
  • Issued March 16, 2017: Order permitting T. Clark Weymouth, Esq., and G. Michael Parsons, Esq., to practice pro hac vice in this matter as visiting attorneys.
  • Received March 3, 2017:
    • Brief of The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting
    • Brief of Marshall J. Tinkle, Thompson, MacColl & Bass, LLC, Portland
    • Brief of FairVote
    • Brief of Senators Troy Jackson, Mark Dion, Shenna Bellows, Ben Chipman, Justin Chenette, Rebecca Millett, David Miramant, and Eloise Vitelli
    • Brief of Larry Diamond, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, California
    • Brief of the Secretary of State
    • Brief of the Maine State Senate
    • Brief of the Attorney General
    • Motion for admission pro hac vice of T. Clark Weymouth, Esq., and G. Michael Parsons, Esq., of Washington, D.C.
    • Brief of the Maine House Republican Caucus and Maine Heritage Policy Center
    • Brief of League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections
    • Brief of Dmitri Bam, Associate Professor of Law, University of Maine School of Law, Portland
  • Issued March 3, 2017: Procedural order changing location of oral argument
  • Issued February 7, 2017: Procedural order
  • Received February 7, 2017:
    • Senate Order SO0012, dated February 2, 2017
    • Letter from Attorney General Janet T. Mills to Senate President Michael D. Thibodeau dated March 4, 2016
    • Letter from Secretary of the Senate Heather J.R. Priest to the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court