Secretary of State Matt Dunlap is challenging a decision issued last week by a Superior Court judge to allow a people’s veto effort on ranked-choice voting, led by the Maine GOP, to appear on Maine’s November 3 ballot.
Dunlap is appealing the decision to Maine’s highest court in hopes the question will be struck from the ballot. At its core, the disagreement between Dunlap and the Maine GOP is about whether or not two petition circulators were registered to vote in the municipalities where they circulated petitions at the time they began collecting signatures.
According to the Press Herald, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments on Thursday and the court is expected to move quickly in rendering a decision. A decision in favor of Dunlap would result in the people’s veto being removed from the November ballot.
According to Dunlap, his office is in a time crunch with the appeal effort because ballots for the November election need to be printed soon to be delivered to absentee and overseas military voters.
Before the secretary announced the appeal late last week, his office rejected 11,299 of the more than 70,000 signatures submitted by the Maine GOP to repeal LD 1083, a bill passed during a 2019 special session of the Maine Legislature that extends the use of ranked-choice voting in Maine to presidential elections. Currently the system is used in state-level primary contests and federal primary and general elections.
The Maine GOP appealed Dunlap’s initial decision, and on August 26, Superior Court Judge Thomas McKeon determined Secretary Dunlap had improperly invalidated 988 signatures, putting the people’s veto effort 22 signatures over the constitutional threshold (63,067 signatures) to be placed on the upcoming November ballot.
Dunlap’s appeal challenges the basis of Judge McKeon’s decision, which relies on a U.S. Supreme Court decision, and notes a factual error he made in not rejecting duplicates or signatures of individuals who were not registered vote in reinstating 988 signatures. Dunlap contends that if the court accepts the petitions from circulators who were unregistered at the time they began circulating petitions, the Maine GOP would still be 22 votes shy of the constitutional threshold. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting is also intervening in the case.
Patrick Strawbridge, the attorney for the Maine GOP, contends that court rules “allowing for an automatic stay of a superior court justice’s decision while a case is being appealed do not apply in this case,” according to the Press Herald. He also argues that the Committee on Ranked Choice Voting and the Secretary of State’s Office are trying to introduce new evidence to the high court that was not in question during the superior court judge’s deliberations.