Maine Republican Party files veto referendum to repeal ranked-choice voting for presidential elections

The Maine Republican Party has proposed a veto referendum to repeal legislation that would implement ranked-choice voting for the presidential election on November 3, 2020. On February 4, 2020, Demi Kouzounas, the party’s chairperson, filed the referendum.

In 2019, the Maine State Legislature passed Legislative Document 1083 (LD 1083), which was designed to implement ranked-choice voting for presidential elections, including partisan primaries and general elections. Gov. Janet Mills (D) said she would hold LD 1083 until the following year. By holding the bill until the next legislative session, LD 1083 would not go into effect until after the state’s presidential primary election on March 3, 2020. It would be in effect for the general election on November 3, 2020.

Signatures for veto referendums are due 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session at which the targeted bill was passed. In 2020, the legislature is expected to adjourn on April 15, 2020, which would give referendum proponents until July 14, 2020, to collect 63,067 valid signatures. A successful signature drive would suspend the law until voters decide whether to repeal or uphold the law, meaning ranked-choice voting would not be used for the presidential election on November 3, 2020.

State GOP chairperson Kouzounas will also lead the party’s ballot measure committee. Kouzounas, explaining the party’s opposition to LD 1083, said, “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.” Kathleen Marra, chairperson of the Maine Democratic Party, responded, “This new attempt is nothing more than an effort to protect President Trump and reject the will of Maine voters.”

In 2016, Hillary Clinton (D) won the statewide vote in Maine with 47.8 percent of the vote. Donald Trump (R) came in second with 44.9 percent of the vote. Under RCV, the candidates receiving the least votes would have been eliminated and their voters’ second preferences would have received their votes until a candidate received a simple majority. Since neither Clinton nor Trump received a simple majority in 2016, ranked-choice voting would have been used to award the statewide electors.

At the presidential election in 2016, Maine voters passed a ballot initiative, titled Question 5, that implemented ranked-choice voting for state and congressional elections. In 2017, the legislature passed a bill to postpone and repeal ranked-choice voting unless a constitutional amendment was passed before December 1, 2021, to enable the legislature to determine election methods. The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting, which sponsored Question 5, launched a veto referendum campaign to overturn the postponement and repeal legislation. On the ballot as Question 1, the veto referendum was approved, repealing the law and keeping ranked-choice voting for state primaries and congressional elections. In 2018, the race for Maine’s 2nd congressional district was the first in U.S. history to be decided by ranked-choice voting. The initial vote count showed that incumbent Bruce Poliquin (R) had received 46.3 percent of the vote and challenger Jared Golden (D) received 45.6 percent of the vote. Independents received 8.1 percent of the vote. After the independents were eliminated and votes were reallocated, Golden won the election with 50.6 percent of the vote.

Voters have decided 30 veto referendums in Maine since 1910. Eighteen of the 30 veto referendums (60 percent) were successful, repealing their targeted legislation. The 31st veto referendum is scheduled for March 3, 2020, and addresses legislation related to vaccination exemptions.

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