Maine Court Puts GOP Ranked-Choice Voting Challenge Back On November Ballot

Aug 25, 2020

A Maine judge ruled Monday that the state Republican party gathered enough valid signatures from voters to put a challenge to a new ranked-choice voting law on the November ballot, preventing the method’s use in this presidential election.

Superior Court Judge Thomas McKeon ruled Secretary of State Matt Dunlap improperly invalidated 988 signatures, just barely enough to qualify the effort for the ballot. If the decision stands, it will be the third time in four years that Maine will vote on ranked-choice voting.

Republicans have led opposition to the method after former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin lost his seat in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District to Democrat Jared Golden in 2018. Last year, the Democratic-led Legislature expanded ranked-choice voting to presidential elections. Monday’s decision bars its use this year as voters decide whether to appeal the new law.

“We said we would not stop fighting until the Secretary of State’s incorrect decision was overturned,” Jason Savage, the executive director over the Maine Republican Party, said in a statement.

Late Monday, Dunlap, a Democrat, said his office had not even begun to discuss how to address the ruling. It could appeal to Maine’s high court, but McKeon’s decision forces his office to put the measure on ballots that need to be printed by Friday.

“We have no idea where we’re going to go from here,” he said.

The decision has the potential to change how Dunlap’s office validates petitions going forward, he said. It hinged on whether two circulators were registered voters in the towns they were collecting petitions in. The Maine Constitution requires circulators to be a person who are residents of the state and are registered to vote in their municipality.

Dunlap said he had interpreted that to mean people needed to be registered when they began collecting signatures, but McKeon ruled circulators can register after they begin collecting. That decision restores 988 signatures, which was 22 more than were needed to cross a threshold of just over 63,000 signatures, according to the decision.

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