How the ranked-choice voting people’s veto would affect 2018 Maine elections

Good morning from Augusta. The Patriots lost. But proponents of ranked-choice voting have scored a major victory by submitting an estimated 72,000 signatures to the Maine secretary of state’s office on Friday in their people’s veto effort to restore the voter-approved law.

It’s the latest move in a tit-for-tat battle with the Legislature over implementing the new system, but assuming the petitions are certified, their submission put ranked-choice voting back on for the crucial and crowded June primaries. The secretary of state’s office has until March 5 to certify the signatures. Meanwhile, lawmakers will have more work to do.

It’s expected to increase the cost of the primary by fourfold. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office says if done right, a ranked-choice primary would cost nearly $1.1 million over the $250,000 cost of a normal primary. Much of that is because of the more specialized equipment needed to read ranked-choice ballots. But Dunlap spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski said that those would be “best practices” for implementing ranked-choice voting and many of them couldn’t be funded without additional appropriations from the Legislature.

Eventually, the Legislature will have to deal with ranked-choice voting’s constitutional problems (again). The people’s veto effort, which would go to Maine voters in June, seeks to overturn parts of a law passed last year to delay ranked-choice voting until 2021. The Legislature did that because the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said that ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional in state-level general elections, while its constitutionality in primaries and federal elections hasn’t been questioned yet. 

We’re actually a little bit worried about reporting under a ranked-choice regime. The Bangor Daily News’ election night plans will be changed greatly under this system. We may not be able to tell you who has won a crowded primary election for weeks. Now, cities and towns report preliminary results to us on election night and they will do the same in June. But while we may know who won the first round in a gubernatorial primary, any subsequent rounds of voting must be done by the secretary of state’s office. That’s why it would take so long.

Correction: The people’s veto effort would not repeal the delay of ranked-choice voting in gubernatorial and legislative elections, a key constitutional concern under the original law. An earlier version of this item was incorrect and has been corrected.

Today in A-town

The House and Senate are out until Tuesday but committee action kicks off at 9 a.m. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has some heavy issues at hand — as it usually does — with consideration due today of bills to strengthen crime victims’ rights, fund the Downeast Correctional Facility and increase the penalty for visual sexual aggression against a child. The schedule at the State House will become busier as the week goes on and you can check out the full schedule by clicking here.

Reading list

  • Angus King wants to stop short-term federal budget resolutions. Maine’s junior senator has launched a caucus group to oppose the use of continuing resolutions in the long term — though he told Maine Public he would likely support spending bills that keep the federal government open.
  • Guarding against sexual harassment in the workplace is a challenge for some Maine companies and organizations. After a startup incubator lost grant funding and folded as its CEO admitted to sexual harassment, one business owner said, “People don’t want this to be the story of entrepreneurship in Maine.” Camden National Bank has implemented an aggressive no-tolerance policy. A national firm estimates that settlements average $125,000 or more.

Kittens as bargaining tools

Like a lot of kids across Maine right now, my 7-year-old had a nasty chest cold last week and missed four days of school. He was more than a little horrified when his teacher sent home 18 pages of catch-up work.

We warned him, I mean promised him, several times since Thursday, when it arrived, that he would finish it before he went back to school today. But at noon yesterday he still hadn’t touched it and was very upset to be missing the Kitten Bowl. Parents are looking for leverage wherever they can find it and I pounced on the opportunity, promising I’d record Kitten Bowl and we’d watch it together if he finished the work.

So there’s the story about how it came to be that I used kittens as a bribe and watched two hours of kittens on Sunday, which ended up being the best thing I watched all day. Here’s my soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.