Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.
The Maine Republican Party has secured essential worker status from the state for the people collecting signatures for the party’s ranked-choice voting repeal campaign.
As the party tries to place a referendum on the November ballot to repeal Maine’s ranked-choice voting law, its signature gatherers will have to follow certain guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Department of Economic and Community Development spokesperson Kate Foye said Friday. Many of those fall in line with social distancing recommendations and requirements businesses have to follow as they reopen.
Signature gatherers must collect voter signatures at stationary locations and place pens and petition on folding tables. The petition circulators must wear protective masks and gloves, stay six feet away from signers and enforce social distancing at signing stations. Signers will have access to single-use pens — they’ll take the pens home with them rather than return them to the campaign — and circulators will carry hand sanitizer and other sanitation products, such as wipes.
No other campaigns have sought the designation, Foye said.
The campaign has until June 15 to submit the 63,000 signatures necessary for a referendum. That’s 90 days after the Legislature adjourned this year due to the coronavirus, about a month earlier than originally anticipated.
If the measure gets on the ballot, ranked-choice voting will not be used during the presidential election. Supporters of the system, which the state currently uses only in primary elections and federal elections, have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Matt Dunlap for allowing the repeal effort to go forward.
The repeal campaign received the designation from the state about a week ago and has since held a few “small” events that only lasted a few hours, said Jason Savage, the Maine GOP’s executive director. The campaign has been sending out notifications on when signing events will happen and hopes to ramp up to events in bigger municipalities that last longer, he said.
“We feel like we are doing everything we can and are in a good position,” Savage said, adding that he feels confident the campaign will get the signatures it needs. The campaign had been using drive-through “stop and sign events” to collect signatures earlier in the pandemic, the Associated Press reported.
Tiffany Bond, an independent running for Senate who still needs to gather signatures to earn a place on the November ballot, said she was not interested in pursuing a similar designation. Her volunteers have used “contactless signing” methods. They meet individuals at their homes, leave petitions on their porch and step away to allow people to sign, she said.
Watch: Janet Mills announces partnership to triple testing capacity