In this Nov. 12, 2018, file photo, ranked-choice ballots are prepared for tabulation in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. There are 70 days until Election Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I wanted to be here and wanted to be part of the campus,” said Rachel Hyatt, a senior from Connecticut and a UMaine student ambassador, one of the students who returned to campus Monday. “So I’m happy to be home.”

What we’re watching today

The roller coaster that is ranked-choice voting in Maine took another dip Monday, although its effect on the November election is likely to be marginal. The late Monday ruling by a Superior Court judge to restore just enough signatures to get a question challenging the voting method’s use in presidential elections on the Nov. 3 ballot was a blow to supporters and a victory for state Republicans who used hundreds of thousands in national party money to get the effort on the ballot. Notably, this means ranked-choice voting won’t be used in 2020.

Ranked-choice voting has had effects in Maine elections before, notably the 2018 victory by U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, and Maine would be the first state to use the method in a presidential election. The third-party candidates in this year’s election are not polling particularly well, so this is really about dealing a blow to the way of voting.

The ruling puts the state in a tight spot and has the potential to change how signature-gathering campaigns work. Republicans maintained Secretary of State Matt Dunlap had wrongly disenfranchised voters when he initially determined the effort fell short of the required signatures needed to get on the ballot. They were initially thrown off the ballot on technicalities and won on a technicality.

The Maine Constitution requires signature gatherers to be registered voters in the town they are collecting in, but does not give a timeframe on when they must be registered. Dunlap interpreted that to mean collectors must be registered when they begin their efforts, but Judge Thomas McKeon disagreed. Dunlap said Monday his office has not discussed how to address the ruling, but it does not have much time with ballots needing to be printed by Friday.

The last-minute change will be the third time Maine votes on ranked-choice voting. Voters have shown they support the method by narrow majorities when it was first passed here in 2016 and a people’s veto led by supporters of the law in 2018. It has also survived multiple lawsuits, including a constitutional challenge tossed by a federal judge earlier this month.

Republicans may have won by getting ranked-choice voting off the table alone in the 2020 presidential election, but it will still be used in the high-profile U.S. Senate race and they have a long way to go to win a majority vote for their position in a high-turnout election year.

The Maine politics top 3

— “BIW tests Susan Collins’ seniority argument in historic 2020 campaign,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “BIW is a good canvas for the seniority debate. It occupies a unique position in Maine politics because work at the shipyard — one of the state’s largest private employers — centers on U.S. Navy contracts that perennially test a congressional delegation that has often carried outsized influence.”

— “6 more test positive for COVID-19 as Katahdin-area wedding outbreak grows,” Charles Eichacker, BDN: “The virus has now been passed to numerous people in the community who did not attend the wedding or reception, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s because they were either directly exposed to infected wedding guests or had contact with people who caught the infection from guests.”

The Maine CDC also reported a new outbreak Monday among first responders in York County. At least four cases of the virus have been confirmed among first responders, while the state was arranging testing for their close contacts Monday. The daily number of virus cases has ticked back up over the month of August, driven in large part by the outbreaks.

— “Maine Senate fills ethics panel for 1st time in 2 years,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The five-person Maine Ethics Commission has not had full membership since independent Margaret Matheson stepped down in March 2018. It is required to be balanced along party lines, with no more than two members of the same party serving at any time. Nominations were made by Gov. Janet Mills and three were approved by the Senate on Monday.”

Dale Crafts casts ceremonial convention vote for Trump

The Republican candidate in Maine’s 2nd District cast a ceremonial vote at the national convention yesterday. Former state Rep. Dale Crafts, who is challenging Golden in 2020, cast his vote for President Donald Trump as part of a procedural move kicking off the party’s convention. Maine is not playing a major role in the convention, though Jason Joyce, a lobsterman from Swan’s Island will deliver an address sometime today.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...