TURNER — As voters try ranked-choice voting for the first time Tuesday, the 75th House District offers the only state legislative contest on the primary ballot in Maine where the new method has a chance of making a difference.

But the three men in the contest are so opposed to ranked-choice voting that they’re calling on supporters not to pick anyone other than their No. 1 selection.

Joshua Morris

If Republican voters pay heed, the ranked-choice option may wind up little-used as the GOP selects its candidate for the Nov. 6 general election in the district, which includes Turner, Leeds and part of Livermore.

The seat has been held for the past four terms by Jeff Timberlake, a Turner Republican. He is seeking to claim a spot in the Senate this year.

John Alexander Pape

Republican voters looking to replace him in the House will pick from among Angelo Terreri, a Turner selectman for 12 years, real estate agent Joshua Morris, and retired U.S. Army Maj. John Alexander Pape. Each lives in Turner.

“I’m not in favor of it all,” Terreri said Thursday. “It gives some people more than one vote.”

Morris said there is “some confusion out there about how it works.”

Angelo Terreri

Under the system adopted in the wake of a 2016 statewide referendum, voters have the opportunity to select their first pick among the candidates for an office and to rank the rest in order of preference.

When the votes are counted after the polls close, election officials will tally up the totals for each contender. If the first-place person wins a majority, the counting is done and the winner declared.

But if the top vote-getter has less than a majority, which is likely in many three-way races, poll workers will take the ballots cast for the last-place finisher and redistribute those votes to the second-choice candidate for each of those voters.

This is a portion of the ranked-choice ballot that Republican voters in the 75th House District will see Tuesday. Voters in Turner, Leeds and part of Livermore will pick a GOP candidate for the general election.

In a three-way race, that guarantees one of the two remaining candidates will capture a majority of the ballots. It’s possible that in a second round, the person who came in first initially could end up in second place.

Terreri said most voters who have talked with him about it “are very confused about it. They don’t like it.”

He said he’s telling people to cast a single vote for whomever they like best and to forget about ranking other choices. Pick one, Terreri said, and don’t fill in anything else.

“Just vote for me in this race and then turn the ballot in,” is the advice Morris said he is giving supporters.

Pape is willing to take it a step further. He said that if he wins a plurality in the first round of voting but falls short of a majority, he will sue if a second round drops him into second place.

He said Maine’s Constitution guarantees that whomever gets the most votes should win, a consequence of an 1880 election dispute that brought the state to the verge of battle.

“I am purely looking at this from a constitutional perspective,” Pape said.

The courts have so far left the door open for ranked-choice voting to be used in party primaries and in elections for the U.S. House and Senate. State races in the general election, however, can’t use ranked-choice voting because Maine’s Constitution endorses plurality voting.

Ranked-choice voting isn’t the only issue in the race, however.

In a gun-friendly district, Morris hopes the A rating he recently received from the National Rifle Association will help put him over the top. The gun rights group gave Terreri a C grade, which the NRA says means he has a mixed record on its issues, while Pape earned a question mark.

“I was very pleased that I was the only one to get an A,” Morris said, because he is a firm advocate of Second Amendment rights.

Terreri said he was surprised to receive a C when he “fully supports the Second  Amendment.”

“I really don’t know why I got a C,” he said, given that he enjoys shooting sports and believes in the NRA’s agenda. He speculated that perhaps he forgot to send in a questionnaire.

Pape, 51, a retired Army major who devoted 24 years to his military career, including a combat tour in Kosovo, said he is not an NRA member and won’t accept its money. But, he said, “I find my own personal views to be to the right of the NRA” on guns “and I don’t think they would have a problem with that.”

A master electrician, he is also the owner of Japelco Electrical Contractors in Turner. He is a former Eagle Scout who has led scouting troops for many years.

His experience in the military and the Boy Scouts, he said, provide him with the leadership skills and negotiating skill to handle the difficult negotiations in the Legislature that are necessary to benefit his district.

Pape said if he’s elected, his first bill will call for the secretary of state to validate every potential referendum question as constitutional before it goes on the ballot. He said they also ought to identify the source of funding for any proposal that goes before voters.

Morris, 36, said he plans to take on the “out-of-state special interests” who pay people to gather signatures in Portland and other urban centers to push referenda onto the ballot for which rural Mainers have no use.

He said there ought to be more transparency in the process, especially when it comes to funding, and a requirement that signatures come from all over Maine so that rural people have a say in the process. Morris said he would like to ban those groups pushing a referendum from paying people to gather signatures.

Terreri, 61, a delivery driver who owns a redemption center, said he opted to get into the race because he thinks he can “keep things going in a positive direction” in Augusta and provide a voice for the people there.

“I feel like I’d make a difference,” he said.

Terreri said he is concerned about “these safe havens around the state” for immigrants threatened with deportation — an issue he plans to research — and with the state’s failure to provide more money for local schools.

“Those are the two big issues on my plate,” he said.

Terreri said he’s also keen to take a look at the referendum process to try to stop “out-of-state special interests” from ramming through ballot measures such as ranked-choice voting that Mainers outside the big cities don’t want.

One of the items on Tuesday’s ballot is whether Maine should continue to use ranked-choice voting for races where it’s legal under the state constitution — party primaries and general election showdowns for U.S. House and Senate seats.

The 75th District primary’s winner will face Democrat John Nutting in the general election. Nutting, a former state senator, raised nearly $14,000 by the end of May for his race, one of the highest House tallies in the state.

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