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Opposed To Ranked-Choice Voting, LePage Says He Might Not Certify Primary Election Results

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Republican Convention, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Augusta, Maine.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage says he will not certify the results of Tuesday's election because of his opposition to ranked-choice voting.  But Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says the governor's threat is hollow, as certification isn't required in party primary nomination contests.

LePage says that ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional and that he will not be party to allowing the new system to be used in the primary elections. He says the system violates a basic constitutional principle.

“In the United States, at my ages in particular, I’m used to one person, one vote. Not one person, five votes," he says. "Therefore, as it relates to the gubernatorial election and relates to the primaries for people running for the House and Senate, I cannot participate in ranked-choice voting because I believe it to be repugnant to the Constitution.”

LePage also cites what he says are unresolved legal questions surrounding ranked-choice voting.

“The Supreme Court has said it is unconstitutional, they said it is OK for the primaries but we have set precedent since the 1880’s that our primary system is has already been set," he says. "They have got to decide what’s right.”

But Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says LePage’s threat is merely symbolic, because the governor has no role to play in primaries, in which candidates are nominated, not elected.

“The law says that, in an election it’s directory he has to certify the election," Dunlap says. "That’s not even relevant here because it is a nomination, not an election. So he can’t keep people from qualifying for the fall ballot by failing to sign a proclamation.”

Dunlap says LePage does have a role to play in certifying the results of the ranked-choice voting ballot question, and the governor indicated that, if the voters reject the question and repeal ranked-choice voting, he  might certify that result.

But if the yes side prevails?  Dunlap isn't exactly sure what happens then. “Well, I think we have to cross that bridge when we get to it. I mean the reality is that he can’t single handily thwart the progress of democracy based on his personal feelings about it.”

About the only thing that LePage and Dunlap agree on about this election is that it's likely to result in one or more court challenges to the primary results or to the continuation of ranked-choice voting itself.

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