Court turns away Republican appeal on ranked voting

By David Sharp
Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away a last-ditch effort by the Maine Republican Party to stop ranked choice voting from being used for the first time in the state’s presidential contest.

Justice Stephen Breyer rejected the request for the high court to intervene after the GOP sought to delay ranked voting in this November’s presidential election until state voters had the final say through a “People’s Veto” referendum.

The Maine GOP’s appeal was filed after the first votes had been cast by overseas voters. Additional ballots were being cast this week as more voters returned absentee ballots, either in person or by mail.
The appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court came after the state Supreme Judicial Court twice rebuffed the Maine GOP.

It focused on whether the Maine GOP collected enough signatures to force a referendum on a law expanding ranked voting to the presidential contest. The appeal contended some of the rules governing the collecting of signatures were unconstitutional.

The GOP contended the Maine Constitution required ranked voting in the presidential race to be delayed if it could show a likelihood of success on a lawsuit seeking to reinstate the referendum.

The ranked voting system, approved by Maine voters in 2016, has become a partisan issue after Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin was ousted in 2018 despite collecting the most first-place votes.

Under the system, voters are allowed to rank all candidates in order of preference on the ballot. A candidate who wins a majority of first-place votes is the winner. If there’s no majority winner, then there are additional tabulations in which last-place candidates are eliminated and votes are reallocated to achieve a majority winner.

The voting system is already used in U.S. House and U.S. Senate races in Maine. It isn’t used in state gubernatorial or legislative races because of concerns that it runs afoul of the Maine Constitution.

Court rejects appeals of 4 in Oklahoma slayings

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the appeals of four death row inmates in Oklahoma slayings.

The court on Monday denied requests for hearings from inmates Alfred Mitchell, Marlon Harmon, Nicholas Davis and Edward Fields.

Attorneys for the men did not return phone calls for comment or declined comment.

Mitchell, Harmon and Davis were convicted in Oklahoma City slayings, while Fields is on federal death row for killing a couple in a southeastern Oklahoma national forest.

Executions in Oklahoma have been on hold since a botched lethal injection in 2014 that left an inmate writhing on the gurney and drug mix-ups in 2015 in which the wrong lethal drugs were delivered.

Federal authorities have carried out seven executions this year with an eighth scheduled for Nov. 19.

The high court also vacated the Tulsa murder conviction and life sentence of Garry Wayne Wilson, who has said he is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and that the crime occurred on Cherokee land.

The court agreed that Wilson’s case should be reconsidered in light of its July ruling that a large part of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation and that the state lacks authority to pursue criminal cases against American Indian defendants.