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Maine GOP Aims To Force Repeal Of Law Allowing Ranked-Choice Voting In Presidential Races

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
In this Monday, Nov. 12, 2018 file photo, locked ballot boxes await opening during the vote tabulation process for Maine's Second Congressional District's House election in Augusta, Maine

The Maine Republican Party said Tuesday it will file a people’s veto challenge against a new law to allow ranked-choice voting in presidential elections in a move that could put the voting method to a statewide referendum for a third time in four years.Maine became the first state to use ranked-choice voting after it was passed in a 2016 referendum that was later limited by the Legislature to state primaries and congressional elections after the state’s high court ruled the initial law was unconstitutional in state general elections and a law to delay implementation was partially rejected by voters in 2017.

The method was first used in the 2018 election, in which U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, ousted Republican Bruce Poliquin despite a plurality lead for the incumbent after the first round that was offset when enough of the voters who picked two liberal-leaning independents first backed Golden over Poliquin in later-round choices.

That election has contributed to stark partisanship around ranked-choice voting. A 2018 exit poll conducted by the Bangor Daily News and the electoral reform group FairVote found that 81 percent of Democrats wanted to expand ranked-choice voting and 72 percent of Republicans wanted to stop using it altogether with a slim majority backing expansion.

That led to the people’s veto pledge from the Maine Republican Party on Tuesday. They’re targeting a law passed last year by the Democratic-led Legislature that will allow ranked-choice voting to be used in presidential elections here. Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, delayed the law’s implementation so it didn’t affect Maine’s June primary but would be in effect by November.

In a news release on Tuesday, the Maine Republican Party said that move gave it “a major window” to attempt to repeal the law. It likely has until mid-July to submit more than 63,000 signatures from registered Maine voters to the secretary of state’s office to get a question repealing the presidential law on the November ballot.

In a statement, Maine Republican Party Chair Demi Kouzounas said “it has become abundantly clear that the people of Maine must take the power of elections back into their own hands.”

The state party last tried to use the referendum process in 2015, when it proposed a question linking an income tax cut with welfare changes. It fizzled out by 2016, however, after the then-chairman said it was a “daunting task” to do the work on a tight timeframe.

This story appears through a media sharing agreement with Bangor Daily News.