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Maine GOP ranked choice voting repeal efforts stunted by City of Portland

Maine GOP was granted a restraining order forcing the city to comply with signature gathering rules

PORTLAND, Maine — Super Tuesday brought about long lines and some confusion over registration, but it also sparked drama between Maine's largest city and the Republican Party.

The Maine GOP's efforts to gather signatures at polling locations in order to get a referendum question on the ballot to overturn the use of ranked choice voting in presidential elections were stunted by the City of Portland.

Maine GOP Chair Demi Kouzounas accused the city of blocking efforts to gather signatures—so she and the party filed a temporary restraining order against the city manager and city clerk.

“I’m just a little upset about it because it’s free speech,” Maine GOP Chair Demi Kouzounas told NEWS CENTER Maine, “we have a right to go ahead and get petition signatures. This is not the way the biggest city of Portland should be reacting to signature gathering.”

A judge sided with Kouzounas, essentially forcing the city to allow the signature gathering.

The city released the following statement:

The Clerk's decision, after consulting with the Secretary of State's Office, was based on the need to protect the rights of both sides in this situation -- that of the voter's ability to vote without undue influence and the GOP's ability to gather signatures for its petition. This area of the law (21-A M.R.S. Sec 682(2)) is somewhat undeveloped and therefore the City appreciates the Court's guidance in its order on the Plaintiffs' ex parte Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order. As soon as receiving the direction from the Court, the Clerk promptly made space available (in addition to the outside area already provided) to accommodate the Plaintiffs' signature gathering process.

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"This is a completely different situation," Kouzounas said.  "This is a people's veto -- a repeal of the presidential ranked choice. Not talking about the municipalities at all."

Sec. of State Matt Dunlap told NEWS CENTER Maine Wednesday there was a misunderstanding in how state law should be interpreted.

"There is a state election law that you cannot have a situation of influence, influencing voters in the polling place." Dunlap said. "The stakes are quite high. That's why you see this type of activity."

Dunlap said there is legislation in the works to clarify laws surrounding polling location practices. 

As it currently stands, ranked-choice voting will be used both in Maine's 2020 U.S. Senate race and in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

"It has become abundantly clear that the people of Maine must take the power of elections back into their own hands and restore faith and constitutionality into our electoral system," Maine GOP Chair, Demi Kouzounas, said in a statement earlier this month.

The local motion to expand RCV's use overwhelmingly passed with nearly 80-percent of the vote.

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