Voters head down the lobby of the Cross Insurance Center where voting booths are set up during the July primary election in Bangor. Credit: Natalie Williams | BDN

Good … afternoon from Augusta. A scheduling snafu prevented the Daily Brief from going out this morning, so we’re sending it now. There are 33 days until the Nov. 3 election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The President should always condemn any kind of hate, and he should have done so last night,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Wednesday after President Donald Trump told members of a far-right group to “stand back and stand by” during his Tuesday debate with former Vice President Joe Biden.

What we’re watching today

Chances are Maine’s election will be run the same way in November. Voting advocates are expected to file an appeal to Maine’s highest court after their request to extend the deadline to submit absentee ballots and make other voting access changes was turned down by a Superior Court judge yesterday. 

That makes it likely we will see the resolution of that case and another — a long-running dispute over the validity of signatures collected for a people’s veto of a law expanding ranked-choice voting to presidential elections here — within the next few weeks. On Thursday, Maine’s high court ruled against a Republican bid to delay the implementation as the state party looks to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Maine’s liberal voting laws and the track record around ranked-choice voting appear to be in the state’s favor in the access case. Superior Court judge William Stokes’ ruling in the voting access case found that the burdens imposed on voters by state law were “slight or moderate” and that the state’s deadline for turning in absentee ballots does not infringe upon their First Amendment rights. 

He also noted that changes made in other states came after those states had issues with elections in the past — Maine’s July 14 primary, meanwhile, was seen as a successful implementation of social distancing efforts and an increased reliance on absentee ballots.

Meanwhile, today’s rollout of an accessible voting system marks the cleanest resolution to a voting-related lawsuit Maine has seen this year. Disability rights advocates and four visually-impaired Mainers sued Dunlap this year, charging that a lack of an accessible online ballot violated their right to privacy and voting safely during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Although that federal court case is still ongoing, counsel for the plaintiffs have said they were “pleased” with the state’s efforts, and representatives are expected to speak at a press conference today rolling the system out.

Those ballots, along with traditional absentee ballots, are officially released tomorrow, while early voting in many towns starts on Monday. More than 260,000 Maine voters have requested absentee ballots so far, according to the latest state data. In-person early voting — which is technically just picking up an absentee ballot at a town office and filling it out on site — will begin next week.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Defense contractor who gave to Susan Collins accused of defrauding her business loan program,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Martin Kao, the CEO of Martin Defense Group, formerly known as Navatek LLC, allegedly inflated the number of his employees his business had and how much they made to get a $10 million loan, then deposited $2 million into his personal bank account, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Hawaii on Tuesday. He then allegedly applied for a second loan.

Kao’s company operates in Maine and he has donated to the senator along with others while being linked to a large contribution to a Collins-linked group. The company has offices in Portland and Bangor. The Maine senator attended a 2019 event with Kao in Portland to celebrate an $8 million Navy contract. Kao and his wife have donated to Collins in the past, while he was linked through his wife to a $150,000 contribution to a pro-Collins super PAC that drew a campaign finance complaint in February alleging the entity that made it seems to have no income.

— “Mysterious poll against Democrat in midcoast Maine Senate race to be investigated,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The state’s ethics watchdog on Wednesday voted to investigate potentially illegal polling against a progressive candidate running for the Maine Senate, though getting to the bottom of the responsible group may be a hard task.”

The Maine Ethics Commission, which recently was restored to a quorum, tossed two other ethics complaints on Wednesday. One had been filed against Rep. Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, and another against House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who is Collins’ opponent in a targeted 2020 race. In both cases, the board determined no violations had occurred. Several other complaints, including one recently filed by the Maine Democratic Party against Collins along with other dueling complaints are in limbo at the federal level, as the federal panel that deals with complaints continues to be without a quorum.

— “Former GOP Sen. William Cohen backs Democrat Jared Golden in Maine’s 2nd District,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “The move by [former Sen. William Cohen], a moderate Republican who served for 24 years as a member of Maine’s congressional delegation and as defense secretary under former Democratic president Bill Clinton, is less surprising than it would have been in past years since he emerged as a sharp critic of President Donald Trump during his 2016 rise.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. 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...