Good morning from Augusta. There are 41 days until Election Day.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’ve got 10 games scheduled for my field hockey and soccer teams,” said Jim Leonard, athletic administrator at Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield’s on the difficulties of arranging at least some games for each high school sports team. “Do I think they’ll all be played? I don’t. I really don’t.”
What we’re watching today
Maine will officially become the first state to use ranked-choice voting for a presidential election following a high court ruling Tuesday. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Secretary of State Matt Dunlap was correct to throw out nearly 1,000 signatures on the Maine Republican Party people’s veto attempt of a law passed by legislative Democrats last year, meaning the initiative fell short and the state will use the voting system in a presidential election for the first time in U.S. history.
The decision comes as a relief to state and local election officials, as the state had already begun printing ballots that use ranked-choice voting. Republicans have said they may appeal the ruling in federal court. The first round of absentee ballots goes out in early October.
The next question is how much ranked-choice voting will affect the outcome of the election in Maine. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, has held a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump in most statewide polling, though the pair have been virtually tied in the 2nd Congressional District, which Trump won by 10 points in 2016.
Three other candidates are joining Trump and Biden on Maine’s presidential ballot — Green Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and Rocky de la Fuente of the Alliance Party. In 2016, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson won 5 percent of votes in Maine, while Green candidate Jill Stein won nearly 2 percent. But this year’s batch of candidates does not seem to have that level of support. In a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll of Maine published earlier this week, the three received just 1.4 percent of votes combined.
The sample size in that poll was too small to make any determinations about whether third-party voters were more likely to list Biden or Trump second. With how close the race in the 2nd District is, there is a possibility that neither candidate reaches the 50 percent threshold and ranked-choice voting comes into play. But the effects of the new voting system are still likely to be muted compared to what they would have been four years ago.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Susan Collins will oppose any Trump high court nominee advanced before election,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday she would oppose any Supreme Court nominee advanced by President Donald Trump before the Nov. 3 election as fellow Republicans pushed forward despite opposition from the Maine senator and Democrats.”
The Maine senator is losing the argument as fellow Republicans look to have the votes to advance the nomination. Under different circumstances, Collins’ announcement would have carried major implications. She has never voted against a Supreme Court nominee who has made it to the Senate floor. However, her statement came after Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he would vote for a justice on their qualifications, likely guaranteeing Republicans can push through a nominee before the election.
Collins has been hit from both sides since breaking with her party and that is worth watching as Trump’s son comes to Maine. The high court fight puts Collins in a difficult position as she faces a tough reelection challenge from House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, that kicked off after the incumbent’s 2018 vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump has criticized Collins over her reluctance to advance a nominee. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, told Fox News this week that she and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the other holdout in the party, should lose their seats if they reject a justice. With Donald Trump Jr. coming to the Bangor area today to campaign for 2nd Congressional District candidate Dale Crafts, it will be worth watching any references made to the vulnerable senator.
— “Madison nursing home passed state inspection weeks before sick staffer worked overnight shift,” Matthew Stone, BDN: “The inspection that took place in early July was part of a round of federally required inspections the state performed at all 93 Maine nursing homes specifically to test how well the facilities were following rules meant to limit the coronavirus’ spread. Those visits turned up violations at 13 facilities, according to DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell. While Maplecrest passed the July inspection, the state cited the facility for the Aug. 11 lapses following a series of follow-up inspections in late August and early September.”
— “Janet Mills calls approval of renewable energy projects ‘historic step forward’,” Lori Valigra, BDN: [The awardees] also committed to spending $145 million initially with Maine-based entities and $3 million annually during the 20-year term of the project contracts. Also included are various payments averaging $4.7 million annually to host communities and payments to Maine-based contractors to harvest about $11 million to $12 million worth of wood each year over the 20 years.
The projects are seen as an important step in fulfilling Maine’s energy goals. Mills’ sweeping climate agenda included a requirement that 80 percent of the state be powered by renewable energy by 2030 and that state emissions be reduced by 2050. Her climate council is currently creating a blueprint on how to get there. A plan is expected by early December.
Maine’s budget committee to get revenue preview
Things are beginning to look different from when the state’s revenue and economic forecasting groups initially projected the financial future. Those groups had been cautiously optimistic in early summer that additional federal aid would help Maine weather the coronavirus pandemic-induced recession. But with Congress still deadlocked over aid, today’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee meeting will likely be focused more on how to best mitigate the damage using state resources.
Things are not as grim as they were in early summer, but it is clear the economic trouble is not over. August revenues were over budget by $35 million, but officials fear that bump was due to the $600 extra in weekly unemployment that has since expired. The state’s economy appears to be tracking toward normalcy, but the approach of winter will present new challenges for businesses that have mastered outdoor service. Here’s your soundtrack.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.
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