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Dunlap: Ranked-Choice Voting Can't Be Used In June Primaries Unless Lawmakers Or Courts Act

Darron Cummings
Associated Press/file
In this July 8, 2017 file photo, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap speaks during a voter registration meeting at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference in Indianapolis.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap told legislative leaders Thursday that a provision in election laws that the people's veto petition blocked means ranked-choice voting cannot be used in the June primaries.

Lawyers in the Attorney General's office have found the people's veto legislation has an inadvertent result, just the opposite of what ranked-choice supporters wanted.

“The people's veto then stops Committee Amendment B from going forward, which takes you back to the original law which says primaries are determined by plurality,” Dunlap said.

The bottom line, according to Dunlap, is ranked-choice voting can’t occur in June without legislative action, which is unlikely since it would need a two-thirds vote, or if a court rules differently. Dunlap says he needs a definitive answer by next week to print ballots to meet federal requirements for overseas voting.

“We need clarity probably by Monday morning," he said. "We have to get ballots printed, that’s the bottom line. We have an election to run. So, the philosophy of ranked-choice voting, which is incredibly innovative and visionary, also has to comply with the statue.”

Later Thursday, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting announced its intention to seek a court-ordered injunction.

Meanwhile, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has issued a statement urging lawmakers to pass an emergency bill to ensure that ranked-choice voting would take place. She said that the 62,000 voters who signed the people's veto petition should not be thwarted by a technicality in the law.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.