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Maine GOP moves to block ranked choice voting for president

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine GOP submitted petitions Monday designed to stop the use of a ranked voting style for president, setting up an Election Day fight over the future of the method. Maine became the first state in the country to adopt ranked choice voting when residents approved of it in 2016. The rollout…

Maine GOP moves to block ranked choice voting for president

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine GOP submitted petitions Monday designed to stop the use of a ranked voting style for president, setting up an Election Day fight over the future of the method.

Maine became the first state in the country to adopt ranked choice voting when residents approved of it in 2016. The rollout of the voting method has since been bumpy, with legal challenges and attempts to reduce its use or scrap it altogether.

But Maine voters were set to use ranked voting for president for the first time in U.S. history in November. The Republicans’ signatures, if verified by the Maine Secretary of State, would instead force a veto vote on the ballot-casting method on Election Day. Voters would decide on Nov. 3 whether to keep ranked voting for president in future elections.

The Republicans submitted more than 72,000 signatures, several thousand above the number they needed to force the veto vote, said Maine GOP executive director Jason Savage. Ranked voting cost the Republicans a seat in Congress in 2018 when Democratic Rep. Jared Golden defeated incumbent Bruce Poliquin, and the GOP has long criticized the method as confusing, unnecessary and unfair.

“The people’s veto has always been about restoring the sanctity of our election process, preserving the bedrock American principle of ‘one person, one vote’ and ensuring that Ranked Choice Voting does not interfere with Maine’s Presidential elections,” Savage said.

Republicans contend the new voting method violates the principle of one person, one vote. Democrats have said it simply gives voters more choice. Proponents also say the voting method eliminates spoiler candidates and ensures the winner earns a majority of votes.

Ranked choice voting is used in some municipalities around the country, including Portland, Maine’s largest city. It essentially functions as an instant runoff. Voters rank their candidates, and their second choices come into play in ranked rounds if no candidate breaks 50% of the vote in the initial vote count.

Maine Democrats characterized the veto push as an attempt by Republicans to undermine the will of voters. Mainers reaffirmed their desire for ranked choice voting in a 2018 vote, they said.

“Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike report that it’s important elections reflect the will of a majority of voters – exactly what RCV achieves, and what its opponents are trying to undermine,” said Kathleen Marra, chair of the Maine Democratic Party.

Maine uses ranked choice voting for U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. That isn’t changing, as the veto attempt applies only to the presidential election.

Recent history suggests ranked voting would have a chance to impact Maine’s presidential election results in 2020. In 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the state, but failed to crack 50% of the vote, which would have triggered the ranked round of voting. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson performed better in Maine than he did in most Democratic-leaning states.

The state also apportions electoral votes by congressional district, and President Donald Trump won the more conservative 2nd District in 2016. That district is expected to be in play again in 2020. Ranked voting could tip the balance in either direction.

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Maine

Maine won’t use ranked-choice voting for presidential election after judge’s ruling

PORTLAND, Maine — Ranked-choice voting won’t be used in the presidential race this November after a judge allowed a Republican-led referendum that would let voters decide whether to use the voting system in future presidential elections. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat, contended the Maine Republican Party didn’t meet the threshold for signatures for…

Maine won’t use ranked-choice voting for presidential election after judge’s ruling

PORTLAND, Maine — Ranked-choice voting won’t be used in the presidential race this November after a judge allowed a Republican-led referendum that would let voters decide whether to use the voting system in future presidential elections.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat, contended the Maine Republican Party didn’t meet the threshold for signatures for the ballot. But a state judge ruled Monday evening that the referendum can proceed. That means the voting system cannot be used in a presidential election until Maine residents vote on it in November, though it will still be used on congressional races.

“The fight to repeal ranked-choice voting marches on, and we remain laser-focused on winning in November,” said Demi Kouzounas, chair of the Maine Republican Party.

The timing of the decision leaves little recourse for further appeal. The deadline necessary for the printing ballots is Friday. Dunlap said Tuesday the ruling is being reviewed and that he could not comment on an appeal.

Maine’s ranked-choice voting system, approved by state voters in 2016, has turned into a partisan issue. Republicans have been adamantly against the voting system while Democrats support the change. The GOP blamed the system for the ouster of an incumbent congressman in 2018, even though the incumbent had the most first-place votes.

Republicans have twice been rebuffed by a federal judge in their efforts to have ranked voting in congressional races declared unconstitutional. The referendum aims to overturn a state law specifying that the system also can be used in presidential elections.

Maine is the first state in the nation to adopt the voting system that lets voters rank candidates from first to last on their ballot.

A candidate who reaches 50% or more in the first round of voting is declared the winner. If there’s no majority, then there are additional tabulations, aided by computers, in which last-place finishers are eliminated and those voters’ second choices are reallocated to the remaining field.

Supporters say the system, which is used in a number of municipalities across the country, eliminates the impact of spoilers and ensures a majority winner without the need for a runoff election.

Critics say it’s unnecessarily complicated. They’ve also argued that it disenfranchises voters.

In the latest legal action, the Maine GOP sued after the secretary of state concluded the petitions fell short of the threshold of 63,068 signatures necessary to appear on the ballot. The decision issued by Superior Court Justice Thomas McKeon validated another 988 signatures, exceeding the threshold by a mere 22 signatures.

The League of Women voters lamented that there could be another statewide vote on ranked voting – the third in four years.

“Mainers have already made their decision clear year after year. They want ranked choice voting in their elections. Putting it on the ballot a third time will not change their minds,” said Anna Kellar, the executive director.

Ranked voting was used for the first time in 2018 when Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin won a majority of first-round votes but ultimately lost to Democrat Jared Golden in a second round of voting.

A federal judged rejected Poliquin’s lawsuit over the election outcome and upheld the constitutionality of the voting system. The same judge again upheld the constitutionality of the system this month.

Because the voting system runs afoul of the Maine Constitution, it is not used in the governor’s race or legislative contests.

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