Here’s a look at Maine’s first ranked-choice voting state ballots

Good morning from Augusta, where the secretary of state’s office has released what ranked-choice voting ballots for the June primaries will look like.

Designing ballots is usually a routine exercise that goes unnoticed by the general public, but the implementation of the new voting system this year — and widespread concerns that voters will be confused when they enter the ballot booth — make this a milestone event.

The Democratic ballot is above. Also available for your perusal are ranked-choice ballots for the Republican gubernatorial primary, 2nd Congressional District U.S. House race and a Republican House primary.

The ballot includes a few directions about how to use it. It informs voters to fill in the oval for their first choice candidate under the “1st Choice” column, and to “continue until you have ranked as many or as few candidates as you like.” Then comes the crucial step to ensuring your ballot is valid: “Fill in no more than one oval for each candidate or column.” There is also room for one write-in.

Maine will become the first state in the nation to use ranked-choice voting for statewide primaries. There are myriad legal questions swirling around the system — and in fact a question on the June 12 ballot that could decide its fate for use in future elections — but how the ballot itself works is fundamental.

Want to fulfill your civic responsibility? Share that ballot sample far and wide.

How bipartisan are Maine’s members of Congress?

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins retained her ranking as the most bipartisan senator, according to the Lugar Center’s latest ratings. She has topped the Senate rankings each year since 2013 and achieved a record score this year, according to the bipartisanship measurement system devised by former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican. and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, ranks 23rd among 98 senators. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the other independent in the Senate, ranks last. In the House, 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, ranks 119th and 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, ranks 145th.

Not surprisingly, the Lugar Center noted that bipartisanship continues a downward trend through the past five Congresses. One shift is that, by the center’s metrics, Republican senators became more bipartisan in 2017 while Democrats became less so. The rating system is based on bill sponsorship and co-sponsorship, not voting records.

School leaders apply heat to lawmakers

The Maine School Management Association is trying to apply pressure on the Legislature. The group wants lawmakers to reconvene and pass a bill that essentially releases education money that was approved last year to schools starting in July. As the Bangor Daily News reported last week, one of the bills left unresolved when the Legislature adjourned was LD 1869, which sets the cost of education and the amounts local districts will have to pay for the school year that begins this fall.

MSMA said in a bulletin to its members that failure of the bill would put an “inordinate burden on local property tax payers.” The bill was tabled in the Senate on April 18 over a disagreement on an amendment that, among other things, would provide benefits from the Maine Public Employees Retirement System for “school management and leadership centers,” which include public charter schools and magnet schools.

LePage makes staff changes

Gov. Paul LePage filled some vacancies on his staff. The governor, who was in Washington, D.C., to attend a state dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, named Jonathan Moynahan as his deputy director of constituent services. Moynahan, who lives in Eliot and is a 2013 graduate of the University of Southern Indiana, comes from the banking sector and has dabbled in politics as a Maine House of Representatives candidate and managing campaigns in Indiana and Massachusetts.

LePage also announced three promotions: Madeline Malisa has been moved from a policy adviser position to chief legal counsel; Micki Mullen has moved from deputy director of boards and commissions to senior policy adviser for employments, workers’ compensation and professional licensing; and William Thompson has moved from the Office of Policy and Management to senior policy adviser for education, housing and finance.

Today in A-town

A judge will meet to consider the Maine secretary of state’s recommendation that a Republican U.S. Senate candidate be removed from the primary ballot. Superior Court Justice William Stokes will hear oral arguments today at 11 a.m. in the case of Max Linn after Secretary of State Matt Dunlap ruled on Tuesday that he fell 10 valid signatures short of the 2,000-signature threshold for ballot access.

That ruling isn’t final until Stokes accepts it and Linn or his primary rival, state Sen. Eric Brakey, could appeal any decision he makes to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Linn vowed in a Wednesday tweet that “we will fight to stay on the ballot.”

Maine’s ethics watchdog will discuss changes that would make political parties responsible for employees’ off-hours political work. At a 9 a.m. meeting, the Maine Ethics Commission will discuss a rule change proposal that would create a presumption that political party employees engaging in political activity are doing it within the scope of their jobs. Commissioner William Lee, a Democrat, is proposing the change.

It was sparked by a website once anonymously run by Jason Savage, the executive director of the Maine Republican Party. The site attacked Democrats, but he said he ran it in his spare time. The Maine Democratic Party asked the commission to investigate, but the panel declined to last month.

In a statement, Maine Republican Party Chair Demi Kouzounas wondered if Democrats believe that politicos “are owned by their employers and have to give up their rights to free speech” and called it “a very dangerous road.” Maine Democratic Party spokesman Scott Ogden declined comment because he said the commission “should be able to arrive at this decision unimpeded by politics.”

Reading list

  • Dunlap’s decision on Linn came after his campaign acknowledged ‘hanky-panky’ around his signatures. At a Tuesday hearing before the decision, Linn and Brakey’s campaigns agreed that signatures had been fraudulently obtained and that there should be a criminal probe, but they disagreed on whether it should strike Linn from the ballot. But Linn said he didn’t know who tampered with them as he blamed Brakey for sabotaging him without evidence.
  • A teenager is asking Maine’s high court to overturn his commitment to an embattled youth prison. A 16-year-old identified as “J.R.” in court documents who was sent to Long Creek Developmental Center last October after being sentenced on criminal mischief and burglary charges claims that the state is incapable of treating youth offenders. A mother also sued the state in March, alleging that Long Creek staff knocked out her 11-year-old son’s teeth last year.
  • A Westbrook teen who sued to get into a national poetry contest didn’t make the second round on Tuesday. After reciting “Song of the Smoke” by W.E.B. DuBois, and “She Walks In Beauty” by Lord Byron, 19-year-old Allen Monga failed to make the next round of the national Poetry Out Loud contest on Wednesday. A judge ruled last week that the National Endowment for the Arts had to let Monga compete after it tried to bar the Zambian asylum-seeker citing rules requiring participants be U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens.

Taking Augusta by storm

The Atlantic hurricane season, as defined by the NOAA, begins in little more than a month. Forecasters predict it will be more volatile than usual.

Meteorologists at Colorado State University — the FiveThirtyEight of hurricane forecasters — predict 14 named tropical storms, of which seven will become hurricanes. The average is 12 and six, respectively.

To earn a name, tropical storms must attain sustained winds of 39 miles per hour. If sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour, the big blow becomes a hurricane, but keeps its storm name. Prospective names — alphabetically from A to W — are picked years in advance.

There will be no Stormy Daniel this year, although there could be a Stormy Danny in 2021 or a Stormy Danielle in 2022.

I’ve always thought that smart people would give storms wimpy names — like Percy or Fawn — in the hopes of minimizing damage. But I am not a meteorologist and am afraid of water, so what do I know?

It’s worth noting that the list of Atlantic tropical storm names for 2018 includes Chris and Michael. But not Robert. Let the “full of hot air” jokes begin. Here is their soundtrack. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins, Michael Shepherd and 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.

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Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.