AUGUSTA — Maine voters might get a third chance to weigh in on ranked-choice voting this year.

The Maine Republican Party announced Tuesday that it is launching a petition drive to put a question on the November ballot asking voters whether they want to repeal the law that extends ranked-choice voting to presidential elections.

State party Chairwoman Demi Kouzounas said ranked-choice voting is unfair.

“One person, one vote is a bedrock American principle. Ranked-choice voting is a direct violation of that principle and threatens the rights of all Mainers and delegitimatizes our election process,” Kouzounas said in a statement.

Supporters of ranked choice said it makes elections fairer.

“November candidates and the parties that support them have nothing to fear from RCV if they have the support of a majority of Maine people,” Anna Kellar, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Maine, said in a statement.

The league has backed ranked-choice voting since 2011, Kellar said, “because it puts more power in the hands of voters, ensures those elected to office have the broadest support, promotes civility in campaigns, and may serve to reduce voter cynicism and increase voter participation. These are values we support, and we stand ready to defend them.”

Voters have twice supported ranked-choice voting in Maine, approving the initial law at the ballot box in 2016 and then voting to overturn a legislative repeal in 2018.

The system is used for primary elections for governor and the Legislature, but it is not applied to statewide general elections because the Maine Constitution states that general elections are to be decided by a plurality, not majority, vote, according to a Maine Supreme Judicial Court advisory opinion issued in 2017.

Ranked-choice voting has also been used in Maine congressional elections since November 2018. It will be used for a U.S. Senate election for the first time in November.

Last year, the Legislature expanded the ranked-choice system to presidential elections. The expansion became law without Gov. Janet Mills’ signature.

Republicans will have 90 days from the legislative session’s end, likely in April or May, to gather the 63,607 signatures needed to put the repeal question on the November ballot.

If petitioners get the needed signatures, ranked-choice voting would not be used in the November presidential election and voters would consider the repeal question. If the repeal fails, ranked-choice would be first used in the March 2024 presidential primary and all presidential primary and general elections thereafter.

The ranked-choice process allows voters to rank contenders in races with three or more candidates in order of preference. If no one wins a majority after the first tally, election officials eliminate the last-place finisher and redistribute that candidate’s votes based on each voter’s second choice. This process continues – with non-viable candidates eliminated from the bottom up and their votes reallocated – until someone hits the threshold of 50 percent plus one vote. That person is the winner.

Maine Republicans have long opposed the system but have been unable to overturn it. The last time Republicans mounted a petition drive it fell short. That was in 2015, when the party pushed for a ballot question to cut the state income tax and add new requirements for receiving welfare benefits.

Maine Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathleen Marra said the issue of ranked-choice voting is settled.

“This new attempt is nothing more than an effort to protect President Trump and reject the will of Maine voters,” Marra said in a prepared statement.

Maine’s first-in-the-nation ranked-choice system withstood a federal legal challenge in 2018, after Democrat Jared Golden unseated incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin in the 2nd Congressional District.

Poliquin said in a call-in radio show with Portland’s WGAN Tuesday morning that he supports his party’s petition drive .

“I am really upset about how they monkeyed around with my one-person, one-vote right because of this rank voting scam, as I call it, because I really believe that,” Poliquin said.

Maine remains the only state to have a statewide ranked-choice voting law but dozens of U.S. cities use ranked-choice voting, including Portland, according to FairVote, a Maryland-based nonprofit that advocates for election reforms.


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