AUGUSTA – State election officials are right on target with preparations for next month’s primary election. With or without ranked choice voting, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the voting process should go smoothly.
The latest legal challenge facing ranked-choice voting was filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor about 10 days ago.
“The lawsuit doesn’t impact our preparations at all. We will get instructions from a judge at some point,” Dunlap said.
The Maine Republican Party filed suit against the secretary of state, citing ranked-choice voting as an infringement of the party’s members First Amendment rights.
“So in the meantime, we’re putting our heads down. We’re pumping our arms. We’re trying to get this thing done. We kind of approach every piece of litigation that way because if we stopped everything we’re doing because of litigation, we’d never get anything out the door,” Dunlap said.
To that end, for the past several months election officials have traveled around the state answering questions from local election clerks, prepping them for the eventuality of ranked-choice voting.
Despite all the controversy surrounding ranked-choice voting since it was approved by voters in November 2016, Dunlap says his office is ready to go ahead with it in the June primary.
In fact, pending any decision from a federal judge, ranked-choice voting will be used by Democrats and Republicans in June.
Local election wardens will see little change prior to the election, Dunlap said. The ballots are out and have been distributed. Absentee balloting in the state of Maine is now underway.
The biggest difference for this election will be noticeable after the polls are closed, Dunlap said.
“It’s not going to be like traditional primaries and elections where you’ll know usually around 10 o’clock on Election Night who to call the election for. You’ll know who’s leading but you won’t know who’s won,” he said.
With Maine being the only state in the country having approved ranked-choice voting, it’s expected ranked-choice advocates and opponents from across the country will be watching Maine’s primary ballot counting process this year, for better or worse.