Secretary of State Matt Dunlap elbow bumps state Rep. Victoria Kornfield, D-Bangor, outside the Cross Insurance Center in the city in July as residents lined up to cast votes in the primary election. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. There are 64 days until Election Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We all do our best selling fresh blueberries, but we really need to have options,” said Jeremy Howard at Brodis Blueberry in Hope, who works with Bluet, a Scarborough company with designs on bringing wine made from Maine’s iconic, struggling crop to a national market. “To have wineries, who use a lot of blueberries, that’s huge. We’re not selling 20 pounds or 50 pounds — it’s 40,000 pounds.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The Maine secretary of state faces a time crunch after challenging a ranked-choice voting people’s veto in court a month before absentee ballots are sent out. The office of Secretary of State Matt Dunlap announced Friday that he would appeal a court ruling that affirmed nearly 1,000 signatures collected by the Maine Republican Party to get a measure killing a law expanding ranked-choice voting to presidential elections back on the ballot.

Whether the referendum is on the November ballot has immediate relevance because it determines whether ranked-choice voting will be used in this year’s election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, which also features three third-party candidates. It would be the first time in U.S. history that electors would be allocated that way.

The timeline for Dunlap’s challenge, which centers around whether petition circulators needed to be registered voters at the time they were collecting signatures, is not yet clear. But his office has begun laying out ballots that feature the question and do not feature ranked-choice voting for the presidential race. The state will have to pivot quickly if the court takes it back off.

Maine is likely to set a record for absentee ballot requests this fall. More than 71,000 voters had requested absentee ballots as of Friday, according to Dunlap’s office, as election officials have encouraged voters to request and return their ballots early amid concerns about mailing ballots due to postal delays. The first round of absentee ballots will be sent Oct. 2, so ballots must be finalized, printed and prepared before then.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Race in Maine’s 2nd District starts slow as Trump-backing challenger plays catch-up,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “A combination of the Republican primary being delayed for a month, an ongoing deadlock in Congress, the massive U.S. Senate race jamming up the Maine airwaves and fewer in-person events due to the coronavirus pandemic has kept the race from taking off, but observers say the pace might quicken after Labor Day as spending picks up and more tune in.”

— “Ad Watch: Susan Collins has backed health care protections that GOP tax bill could erode,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “A new ad from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins features a supporter vouching for her support of maintaining health care protections for people with pre-existing conditions. While she has supported those protections, the law enshrining them is endangered by a Republican tax-cut law that she backed in 2017.”

— “How the world has changed for the Portland family of a slain Black man, ahead of his killer’s sentencing,” Nick Schroeder, BDN: “He was not a thug. He was a sweet boy. He was my brother,” said Asha Muse of her brother, Isahak Muse, who was shot and killed by Mark Cardilli during a fight at his girlfriend’s family home in 2019. “People will never know the love my family had for Isahak.”

The killer’s sentencing on Monday morning will be one of the first high-profile Maine court hearings during the coronavirus pandemic. Cardilli, who was convicted on one count of manslaughter by a judge last year, faces at least four years in prison and a maximum of 30 years, plus probation. His sentencing will be held at 9 a.m. at the Cumberland County courthouse in Portland. It will provide two overflow rooms to view the proceeding, which will also be streamed as the pandemic changes typically open proceedings.

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

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...