Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Dale Crafts appeared on a Fox News pundit’s show on Thursday night to espouse his party’s views on ranked-choice voting in Maine, though it will not be a factor in his upcoming election.
Crafts told Tucker Carlson that the voting method is “just another sham by the Democrats to try and steal races, especially in swing districts” while criticizing Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s handling of a Republican challenge of its use in the November presidential election.
The appearance is likely meant to raise Crafts’ profile as he works to catch up to incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in the general election, whom he trails in fundraising and early polls. Republicans have long opposed ranked-choice voting, but their resistance picked up when Golden ousted incumbent Bruce Poliquin after a ranked-choice count in 2018.
Resistance to the method has mostly fallen along party lines. A 2018 exit poll found the majority of Democrats supported it while 72 percent of Republicans wanted to stop its use altogether. It is relatively rare for first-round leaders to lose ranked-choice races nationally, but it happened to Poliquin in Maine the first time the method was used here.
Crafts, a businessman and former state representative, mainly focused on the Maine Republican Party’s attempt to block its use in the contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden through a people’s veto whose fate now lies with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The Legislature passed a law green-lighting ranked choice for presidential races last year. Gov. Janet Mills allowed it to become law without her signature.
He told Carlson that Dunlap, a Democrat, “threw out over 10,000 votes” collected for the citizens’ referendum effort, likely referring to more than 11,000 signatures the Secretary of State initially found to be invalid. About half of those, however, were not certified by the registrar as belonging to a registered voter in a municipality or duplicates.
The method kicked in during the July Republican congressional primary and favored Crafts in the end after polling showed most voters would rank him first or second. State law required the count to occur because no candidate achieved a majority, even though both of Crafts’ opponents conceded. Crafts has said he wants to change Maine state law to prevent recounts in those situations, calling it “completely ridiculous.”
He also said the method would be used “in some form” in 22 states for the upcoming election, but Maine is the only one that uses ranked-choice voting in statewide races. Ranked-choice is used in another 25 states, but the vast majority only use that in select municipal races, according to FairVote. Four states used the method in presidential primaries.
It will not be used in the 2nd District race in 2020 because only Crafts and Golden are on the ballot. Ranked-choice voting will be used in the nationally targeted race between U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat, and independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn.