AUGUSTA, Maine — The legal jeopardy around the use of ranked-choice voting in the presidential general election heightened Monday after the Maine Republican Party appealed a state ruling that their signature-gathering effort to repeal the law failed.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap ruled nearly two weeks ago that the effort was 2,000 signatures short of the required 63,000 needed to get a people’s veto on the November ballot and prevent the use of the voting method in the election between President Donald Trump, likely Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden and any other candidates who make the ballot.
The state party pushed back on that finding in a Monday press release, saying it found at least 2,000 signatures they say were wrongly discounted. Chair Demi Kouzounas said in a statement it was “shocking how many voters [Dunlap] chose to silence.” The appeal was filed in Cumberland County Superior Court just before the deadline to appeal the ruling.
Republicans worked aggressively to collect signatures for the veto effort during a shortened gathering period, dropping $517,000 as of June 30 through a political action committee formed to handle the process and received another $95,000 worth of in-kind contributions as of June 30, according to state filings.
Dunlap knocked off 11,000 signatures in his office’s July 15 decision. More than 3,500 were eliminated because they were not certified by the registrar as belonging to a registered voter in a municipality. Another 2,600 were not counted because they were duplicates and 1,100 were invalidated because they were not validated by a registrar within the required time frame.
Republicans argue that the state made tabulation errors and made improper claims of material alterations that account for hundreds of signatures they deem valid. In one instance, they say a man with cerebral palsy’s signature was discounted because he used a stamp, which is allowed by state law if observed by a notary.
The filing comes the day before supporters and opponents of the voting method are set to argue about the constitutionality of Republicans’ ballot challenge before Maine’s high court.
The voting method was expanded to presidential contests last year by the Democratic-led Maine Legislature during a special session. Gov. Janet Mills declined to sign the law, but she allowed it to take effect without her signature in January to keep it from affecting the March presidential primaries.
Resistance to use of the voting method has largely come from Republicans, particularly since the 2018 election in which U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, ousted incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin.