People’s veto effort meets initial requirements to restore ranked choice voting



AUGUSTA — The people have spoken — again — on the issue of ranked choice voting (RCV).

A people’s veto campaign gathered more than 80,000 signatures to restore the voting system that was originally approved in a statewide referendum in November 2016.

Organizers submitted their documents to the Secretary of State’s office on Friday, meeting what they called “an almost impossible 88-day timeline.”

The signature total surpassed the 61,123 required by Friday’s deadline. Each signature will have to be certified by the Secretary’s office as a registered Maine voter.

Last October, the Legislature voted to delay implementation and possibly repeal the RCV law.

That triggered the launch of the people’s veto campaign in November.

As long as at least 61,123 signatures are certified, Friday’s deadline suspends until June’s primary races the law the Legislature passed in October. At that point, Maine voters will decide whether to affirm the people’s veto or maintain the Legislature’s delay bill.

“This effort is nothing short of a miracle,” said Kyle Bailey, campaign manager of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. “It demonstrates just how hungry Maine people are for more voice and more choice in our democracy.

“These signatures were collected by volunteers who stood outside of post offices and town dumps in feet of snow facing below freezing temperatures. With submission of these signatures, Maine people are sending a clear message to the politicians in Augusta that it’s the people who are in charge, not the politicians.”

Nicole Grohoski, who collected signatures in Hancock, Waldo and Knox counties, said, “This has been an extraordinary effort from citizens all over the state — we had nearly two thousand volunteers out there collecting signatures and driving them all over Maine to be counted.

“People got involved because they are tired of being dismissed by Augusta politicians who think they know better than the Mainers they represent. When the majority of Mainers speak, our politicians should listen.”

Upon submission of the signatures, the people’s veto will take immediate effect, and ranked choice voting implementation must begin.

The new system will be used in the June 2018 election for all state and federal primary races. Voters also will have the opportunity to reaffirm their support for ranked choice voting on this June’s ballot by voting “yes” for the people’s veto.

Campaign Chairman Dick Woodbury said, “This is the first time in history that a people’s veto has been invoked in order to preserve a citizen-initiated law. I could not be more proud of Maine people for taking this on, and for affirming that we the people own our democracy.”

The people’s veto effort only strikes down some of that October bill, leaving portions intact that have raised questions of constitutionality.

Maine’s Constitution makes rules regarding state-level elections, requiring they be decided by a “plurality,” or anyone with the highest number of votes — period. RCV can only be determined by a “majority,” meaning one candidate needs to earn at least 50 percent of the vote for the formula to work.

Because the constitutional issue applies only to state races, the people’s veto leaves that portion of the Legislature’s bill in effect and repeals the portions dealing with federal elections.

Regardless of what Maine voters decide in June, the issue will extend until at least 2021, when lawmakers will have to address the question of constitutionality for state-level races.