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Effort To Repeal Ranked Choice Voting In Maine Falls Short of Signature Requirement To Make Ballot

July 17, 2020

Maine Republicans want to repeal ranked choice voting, but their effort this year appears to have failed.

The party gathered more than 72,000 signatures for a ballot initiative that would ask voters in November to get rid of ranked choice voting for the presidential general election, but the Maine Secretary of State declared around 11,000 of those signatures invalid. That left Republicans with about 61,000 certified signatures, about 2,000 short of what they would have needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Republicans are challenging the findings of the Secretary of State, who is a Democrat, and say they’ll appeal.

If Republicans prevail and the measure goes on the ballot, then the state won’t use ranked choice voting in the presidential election in November, giving voters a chance to decide if they want it in the future. (Ranked choice voting will remain in effect for other races in Maine, as it was in 2018.)

If the Secretary of State’s ruling stands, then this November, Maine will be the first state to use ranked choice voting in a presidential election, as the Bangor Daily News reports.

Massachusetts may also adopt it. There will be a ballot question in the Bay State this upcoming November asking voters to implement ranked choice voting.

Ranked choice voting allows voters make lower selections on the ballot, with the idea that if no candidate wins an outright majority of votes, the lower selections of voters for losing candidates will come into play.

In Maine, there is some speculation that ranked choice voting could make it harder for President Donald Trump to win the single electoral vote in the state’s Second Congressional District that he got in 2016.

Maine awards two electoral votes for winning the state (as Hillary Clinton did in 2016, by 2.9 percentage points), and one electoral vote apiece for winning each of its two congressional districts.

Trump won a plurality of votes in the Maine Second Congressional District in 2016 but not quite a majority. If that happens again in 2020, he’d likely have to get a significant number of second-choice selections from voters who didn’t vote for him in order to be declared the winner.

That means Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, could get fewer votes in the Second Congressional District than Trump but still snag the electoral vote if enough voters for lower-tier candidates pick Biden as their second choice.

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