Tagmaine

Stories about Maine

Maine ballots will be printed with ranked-choice voting for president after court stays order

On September 8, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D) announced that general election ballots will be printed with ranked-choice voting for president after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court stayed a lower court’s decision on a veto referendum. “Because of Federal deadlines regarding providing printed ballots to military and overseas citizens abroad, we must tell the printers to begin their work today,” said Dunlap.

The Maine Republican Party is behind a veto referendum to overturn Legislative Document 1083 (LD 1083), which established ranked-choice voting for presidential primaries and general elections. Under LD 1083, Maine is slated to use ranked-choice voting for the presidential election on November 3, 2020.

On June 15, proponents of the veto referendum filed 72,512 signatures. At least 63,067 of the signatures needed to be valid. On July 15, Dunlap announced that his office found 61,334 signatures to be valid—1,733 signatures below the requirement. Dunlap later reinstated 809 signatures from the town of Turner, Maine. A successful signature drive would have suspended the law until voters decided the law’s fate, meaning ranked-choice voting would not have been used for the presidential election on November 3, 2020.

Proponents sued Dunlap in the Cumberland County Superior Court, and Judge Thomas McKeon ruled that Dunlap needed to count an additional 988 signatures.

The Maine Constitution states that a “Circulator must appear on the voting list of the city, town or plantation of the circulator’s residence as qualified to vote for Governor….” According to Judge McKeon, Dunlap was wrong to interpret this constitutional language as requiring circulators to be registered to vote while collecting signatures. Instead, circulators being registered to vote at the time of signatures submission, regardless of whether the circulators were registered while collecting signatures, was sufficient. Due to McKeon’s ruling, the use of ranked-choice voting was effectively suspended for the presidential election.

Dunlap appealed the decision to the state Supreme Judicial Court, which stayed Judge McKeon’s decision. The Supreme Judicial Court has not yet decided the merits of the case. “Today’s ruling has the effect of leaving in place the original determination of the Secretary of State that the people’s veto effort did not have sufficient signatures…,” according to the secretary’s office.

Forgoing a final ruling from the state Supreme Judicial Court, Maine will be the first state to use ranked-choice voting in a presidential election. Maine was also the first state to establish a statewide system of ranked-choice voting following the voter approval of Question 5 in 2016. In 2020, voters in Alaska and Massachusetts will vote on ballot measures to adopt ranked-choice voting.

Additional reading:


Court rules that Maine GOP-backed referendum on presidential ranked-choice voting will appear on ballot

On August 24, a Maine Superior Court ruled that voters will decide a veto referendum on a law that established ranked-choice voting (RCV) for presidential primaries and general elections. Maine was slated to use RCV for the presidential election on November 3, 2020. Since the veto referendum qualified for the ballot, however, the law is suspended until voters decide to either uphold or repeal it. Therefore, RCV will not be used to elect the president in Maine this year.

The Superior Court’s ruling came after Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D) determined that not enough signatures were valid to place the referendum on the ballot. Judge Thomas McKeon disagreed with Dunlap’s interpretation of a constitutional provision, which states that circulators’ names must appear on voter registration rolls. Dunlap invalidated 988 signatures from two circulators, also known as signature gatherers, who were not registered to vote while collecting signatures. However, the two circulators were registered to vote when signatures were submitted to the state for review. According to Judge McKeon, a circulator being registered at the time of signature submission, rather than while collecting signatures, was sufficient to meet the constitutional requirement. Dunlap could appeal the court’s decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

In 2019, the Maine State Legislature passed the bill that expanded RCV to presidential elections. Gov. Janet Mills (D) held LD 1083 until 2020. By holding the bill until the next legislative session, LD 1083 did not go into effect until after the state’s presidential primary on March 3, 2020.

The Maine Republican Party is backing the veto referendum campaign, which is known as Repeal RCV. Through August 18, Repeal RCV had raised $706,410, including $639,430 from the Maine GOP and $50,000 from Gary Bahre and Robert Bahre. Demi Kouzounas, chairperson of the state GOP, is also chairperson of Repeal RCV.

The veto referendum would be the third RCV ballot measure in Maine since 2016. Voters approved Question 5, which established a first-in-the-nation statewide system of RCV, in 2016. In 2017, the legislature passed a bill that was written to postpone and repeal RCV unless the legislature referred and voters approved a constitutional amendment. The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting, which sponsored Question 5, launched a veto referendum campaign to overturn LD 1646. On the ballot as Question 1, the veto referendum was approved with 53.9 percent of the vote. Therefore, LD 1646 was repealed and RCV remained in effect, except for general elections for state legislative and executive offices. The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting is again seeking to preserve RCV and launched a PAC, which received $52,570 through August 18, to oppose this year’s referendum.

At the election on November 6, 2018, ranked-choice voting (RCV) was used for the first time in a general election. Both Sen. Angus King (I) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) won their respective seats without the need for ranked-choice tabulations. In Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, 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. On November 15, 2018, Dunlap announced that after the lowest vote-getters were eliminated and votes were reallocated, incumbent Rep. Poliquin received 49.4 percent of the vote and challenger Golden received 50.6 percent of the vote. The race was the first in U.S. history where ranked-choice voting was used to decide a congressional election.

In November, voters in Alaska and Massachusetts will decide ballot measures to adopt RCV as well. Voters in Arkansas could also vote on a RCV measure, pending a judicial ruling.



Maine Supreme Court: Ballot measure violates boundaries of legislative power

On August 13, 2020, the Maine Supreme Court ruled in Avangrid Networks, Inc. v. Secretary of State that a ballot referendum scheduled to appear on the November 2020 ballot was an unconstitutional violation of state separation of powers principles. The judges held that the referendum did not meet the requirements of the state constitution for inclusion on the ballot because, in their words, “it exceeds the scope of the people’s legislative powers” under the Maine Constitution.

The referendum aimed to overturn a decision by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to give a company permission to build a high-voltage power line to deliver electricity from Canada. The Maine Supreme Court argued that it had the power to review the constitutionality of the referendum before the November election to determine whether it would be a proper exercise of the people’s legislative authority.

The court ruled that the referendum was not within the legislative power of the people of Maine because it would be an exercise of executive or judicial power instead of legislative. The court wrote that the referendum’s “purpose and effect is to dictate the Commission’s exercise of its quasi-judicial executive-agency function in a particular proceeding.” The court added that the referendum “would interfere with and vitiate the Commission’s fact-finding and adjudicatory function—an executive power conferred on the Commission by the Legislature.”

While the legislature has the power to limit the legislative functions and authority of the PUC, the court ruled that it does not have the power to require the PUC to overturn and reverse a particular administrative decision that it had made. Since the ballot referendum process is an exercise of legislative power, the court held that the same limitation applies. Under the separation of powers provision contained in the Maine Constitution, no one in a particular branch of government may exercise the powers that belong to the other branches of government.

The court ruled that since the referendum did not propose legislation it should not appear on the November 2020 election ballot.

To learn more about the referendum and separation of powers, see here:
Additional reading:
Link to the Maine Supreme Court decision:


Maine Supreme Judicial Court rules that ballot initiative to reverse certification for transnational transmission line project is unconstitutional

On August 13, the Maine Supreme Court blocked from the ballot a citizen initiative designed to reverse a certificate required for a transnational transmission line project. The court ruled that the measure violated the “procedural prerequisites for a direct initiative” found in the Maine Constitution. According to the Supreme Judicial Court, the Maine Constitution “requires that a citizens’ initiative constitute legislative action,” and the ballot initiative “exceeds the scope of the people’s legislative powers…”

The ballot initiative would have required the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reverse an order made on May 3, 2019, that provided the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission project with one of the certificates needed before construction could begin. The NECEC transmission project was designed to cross about 145 miles in Maine, from the state’s border with Quebec to Lewiston, and transmit around 1,200 megawatts from Hydro-Québec’s hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine.

Avangrid Network, Inc., the parent firm of Central Maine Power, sued Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D) on May 12, 2020. Avangrid argued the ballot initiative was not legislative in nature and instead was designed to exercise executive and judicial power. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with Avangrid, stating that the ballot initiative would interfere with PUC’s executive power to make a decision—something that legislation, including citizen-initiated legislation, cannot do according to the ruling. According to the Supreme Judicial Court, the ballot initiative was “executive in nature, not legislative,” because legislation can define an agency’s functions and authority but cannot “vacate and reverse a particular administrative decision.”

Avangrid and Central Maine Power provided $10.60 million to the campaign against the ballot initiative. H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec, provided an additional $6.33 million. On July 29, 2020, 25 current and former state legislators sent a letter to Quebec Premier François Legault and Hydro-Québec CEO Sophie Brochu regarding “Hydro-Quebec’s political campaign aimed at influencing the outcome of a citizen-initiated ballot measure this November.” Hydro-Québec is a corporation owned by the government of Quebec, which, according to the legislators, gave the Quebec government and residents a “financial interest in the outcome of a Maine election.” Serge Abergel, the director of external relations for Hydro-Québec, responded that Hydro-Québec should be allowed to provide information to voters after spending years to obtain permits.

The No CMP Corridor PAC, which was leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative, had the support of Mainers for Local Power. Mainers for Local Power received $688,665 from Calpine Corp., which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine, and $750,756 from Vistra Energy Corp., which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine.

Proponents of the ballot initiative collected 75,253 signatures for the ballot initiative between October 2019 and February 2020. On March 4, 2020, Dunlap announced that 69,714 of the submitted signatures were valid, surpassing the required minimum of 63,067.

The ballot initiative was one of two potential November 2020 citizen-initiated measures in Maine. The other citizen-initiated measure is a veto referendum to repeal ranked-choice voting for presidential elections. Secretary of State Dunlap announced that not enough signatures were valid for the veto referendum to appear on the ballot. Proponents of the veto referendum, however, are challenging Dunlap’s decision in Superior Court.

Additional reading:


Maine Supreme Judicial Court hears arguments about the role of ballot referenda in overturning state administrative agency decisions

On August 5, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments in a case about whether voters may use the ballot referendum process to reverse actions taken by a state administrative agency. At issue is a ballot referendum set to appear on the November 2020 ballot that would overturn a state agency decision giving a power company permission to build a high-voltage power line.

The lawyer for Avangrid Networks, which owns the power company, argued that the “integrity of the Maine Constitution and [its] constitutional form of government” depended on the court stopping the ballot referendum. He said that it was the duty of the court to stop proponents of the ballot referendum from attempting to use the referendum process in a way that is not supported by the state constitution.

Opponents of the referendum argue that the ballot measure violates the separation of powers provision found in Article III of the Maine Constitution. They’ve argued that the measure is an attempt to use a ballot referendum to exercise executive authority by reversing an agency order, and judicial authority by overturning a related court decision.

The lawyer representing supporters of the referendum argued that the court should wait to rule on the constitutionality of the referendum until after the November 2020 election. He argued that the referendum, which would direct the behavior of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, was a legitimate use of legislative authority. He added that however the court decides, voters should be allowed to vote for or against the measure in the election.

The lawyer for the secretary of state of Maine stated that the secretary agreed, along with the challengers, that the referendum goes beyond the power of citizens to legislate under the Maine Constitution. She also stated that the court should decide the issue before the November election.

To learn more about the Maine ballot measure, see here:
Additional reading:
Link to the oral argument:


Voters decide state legislative primaries in Maine, runoffs in Texas

Image of a red sign with the words "Polling Place" a pointing arrow.

The statewide primary for Maine and the primary runoff for Texas took place on July 14, 2020. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3.

Texas’s statewide primary was held on March 3, 2020. If no candidate received a majority of the votes in the primary, the top two vote-getters advanced to the primary runoff.

On July 14, candidates ran in elections for the following state legislative offices:

Maine House of Representatives (151 seats)

• Sixteen races remained uncalled as of July 15, 2020. Each incumbent who filed to run advanced to the general election in the races that had been called.

Maine State Senate (35 seats)

• Seven races remained uncalled as of July 15, 2020. Each incumbent who filed to run advanced to the general election in the races that had been called.

Texas House of Representatives (14 seats)
• Bryan Slaton defeated incumbent Dan Flynn in the District 2 Republican primary runoff.
• Shelby Slawson defeated incumbent J.D. Sheffield in the District 59 Republican primary runoff.

• Five races remained uncalled as of July 15, 2020.

Texas State Senate (2 seats)
• Roland Gutierrez defeated Xochil Pena Rodriguez in the District 19 Democratic primary runoff.

• Incumbent Eddie Lucio defeated Sara Stapleton-Barrera in the District 27 Democratic primary runoff.

Texas State Senate District 14 special general election (1 seat)

• The race was too close to call as of July 15, 2020.

For state legislative primaries, Maine uses a ranked-choice voting system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the losing candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

Maine’s primary was the 31st to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next primary is on August 4 in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, and Tennessee.

Additional reading:


Voters decide primaries in Maine, primary runoffs in Alabama, Texas

The primary election for Maine’s congressional seats took place on July 14, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed on March 16. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled on November 3.

The following races were decided, meaning one or more candidates advanced to the general election, on primary election night:
• U.S. Senate – one seat

• U.S. House of Representatives – two seats

Maine uses a ranked-choice voting system (RCV), in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, and the second-preference choices on those ballots are then tallied. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

As of July 2020, Maine was the only state that had adopted RCV at the state level, although other states have adopted RCV at the municipal level or have adopted RCV but not yet implemented it.

Maine’s primary election was the 31st to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next primary is on August 4 in Arizona.

Alabama and Texas held statewide primary runoffs on July 14.

The filing deadline to run in Alabama passed on November 8, 2019. To avoid a primary runoff in Alabama, a candidate had to win a majority of votes cast in the primary election. If no candidate won a majority of votes, the top two candidates advanced to the primary runoff. Alabama’s primary election was held on March 3, 2020. Three congressional seats advanced to primary runoffs in Alabama, including one race for the U.S. Senate and two for the U.S. House. All three of these races were decided on election night.

In Texas, the filing deadline to run for office passed on December 9, 2019. To avoid a primary runoff in Texas, a candidate had to win a majority of the votes in the primary election. If no candidate won a majority of votes, the top two candidates advanced to the primary runoff. Texas’ primary was held on March 3, 2020. Fifteen congressional offices—one U.S. Senate seat and 14 U.S. House seats—advanced to primary runoffs in Texas. All but two of those races were decided on election night.

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Crafts wins Republican primary in ME-02 after other candidates concede

Adrienne Bennett and Eric Brakey conceded Maine’s 2nd Congressional District Republican primary to Dale Crafts. As of 4 p.m. Eastern Time on July 15, Crafts had received 44.7% of the vote. Bennett received 32.5%, and Brakey, 22.9%.
Since Maine uses ranked-choice voting, Crafts would have needed more than 50% of the vote to win on the first round of vote tabulation without the other candidates’ concessions. The race will advance to a second round of vote tabulation, where the votes of those who chose Brakey as their first-choice candidate will be redistributed to those voters’ second-choice candidates.
Crafts will face Jared Golden (D), who defeated incumbent Bruce Poliquin (R) in 2018. It was the first congressional election ever decided by ranked-choice voting.


Maine voters approve bond measures for transportation and high-speed internet infrastructure

Based on unofficial election night results, 75.5% of voters approved Maine Question 1, the High-Speed Internet Infrastructure Bond Issue, and 77.5% of voters approved Maine Question 2, the Transportation Infrastructure Bond Issue.
Maine Question 1 authorized $15 million in general obligation bonds for the ConnectME Authority to provide funding for high-speed internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. As of March 2020, the ConnectME Authority defined unserved areas as places where broadband service is not offered and underserved areas as places where less than 20 percent of households have access to broadband service. Vote Yes on 1 for Better Internet led the campaign in support of Question 1. The campaign received $105,119.44 in contributions prior to the election.
Maine Question 2 authorized $105 million in general obligation bonds for transportation infrastructure projects, including:
• $90 million for highways, bridges, and MaineDOT’s Municipal Partnership Initiative (MPI) and
• $15 million for multimodal facilities and equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports, harbors, marine transportation, and active transportation projects.
The bond revenue would be used to match an estimated $275 million in federal and other funds.
Rep. Drew Gattine (D-34) introduced the bond issues into the Maine State Legislature as Legislative Document 2134 (LD 2134) at the request of Gov. Janet Mills (D). Both chambers of the state legislature passed LD 2134 on March 17, 2020.
Voters of Maine cast ballots on 39 bond issues, totaling $1.43 billion ($1,427,925,000) in value, from January 1, 2007, through January 1, 2020. Voters approved 38 of 39 bond issues (97.4 percent) between 2007 and 2020. Maine had $543.40 million in debt from general obligation bonds on June 30, 2019. About $103.64 million of voter-approved bonds from prior elections had not yet been issued for projects as of June 30, 2019.
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Gideon wins Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Maine

Sara Gideon defeated Betsy Sweet and Bre Kidman in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Maine. As of 11:15 a.m. Eastern Time on July 15, Gideon had received 70% of the vote followed by Sweet and Kidman with 23% and 7% of the vote, respectively, with 88% of precincts reporting.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senate Democrats’ official campaign arm, endorsed Gideon. According to pre-primary campaign finance reports, she had raised $23,001,088, more than all but four other Senate candidates across the country so far in 2020.

Gideon will face incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R) in the general election. Collins is one of two incumbent Republican senators running for re-election in a state that Hillary Clinton (D) won during the 2016 presidential election. Clinton received 48% of the vote in Maine to Donald Trump’s (R) 45%.


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