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Sen. Jackson pushes bill for Ranked-Choice Voting in Maine Presidential election

AUGUSTA – Senate President Troy Jackson (D – Aroostook) will introduce a bill today to the Maine Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee to force Maine’s Presidential election process to be conducted under ranked-choice voting in 2020.

The bill, L.D. 1083, would change Maine’s Presidential nomination process over to the ranked choice voting tabulation process in the general election, giving the winner of the ranked-choice voting tabulation Maine’s electoral college votes.

The bill also would change how Maine’s major political parties choose their nominee for President by allowing them to opt-in to a primary election. Because Maine’s traditional primary date in June occurs after the Presidential nomination process is more or less wrapped up, Jackson’s bill would add a second primary election date for Maine in March, which would likely add hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs to taxpayers.

The bill will have a public hearing today, March 20th, at 9 AM before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Joel Stetkis (R – Canaan) would repeal ranked-choice voting entirely. Rep. Stetkis’ bill has been referred to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing.

Ranked-choice voting went into effect in Maine for the 2018 primary elections for Governor, elections for federal office and governor, and then for federal offices in the general election.

The change was not without controversy. The implementation of ranked-choice voting was marred with legal impediments from parts of the original law being found unconstitutional, which was followed by legislation to require the law to be brought into compliance with the Maine Constitution facing a partial people’s veto.

More lawsuits followed, but eventually the new process, which many voters said was confusing, was utilized.

The full, final results of the last ranked-choice voting election in Maine’s 2018 general election between Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Jared Golden were not certified until December 19, 2018, about six weeks after the general election.

The process of delivering the ballots to the Maine Secretary of State’s central tabulation location was also controversial, with some boxes arriving with no locks, and the Secretary of State refusing to allow public access to the software ‘utility’ that was used to tabulate results.

It was estimated that the RCV process cost just under half a million dollars in additional funds for the 2018 elections, but the cost breakdown provided provided by the Secretary of State’s office does not include staff time or local voting machine costs imposed on Maine towns to comply with the new law.

Adding the Presidential general election and primary would necessarily add significantly more cost, but Jackson’s bill does not yet have a fiscal note to determine those costs.

Sen. Troy Jackson was a supporter of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Maine Democratic Party caucus process.

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