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New ranked choice worries could threaten vote

If the state proceeds with using ranked choice in June as planned, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says, the conflict in the laws could result in legal challenges of election results.

AUGUSTA (NEWS CENTER Maine) — One day after issuing the proposed rules for ranked choice voting (RCV) in the June primary election, Maine’s secretary of State is warning they might not be able to use that method after all. That surprising announcement has supporters of the controversial voting method angry, and it's looking like the issue may once again have to be resolved in court.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Thursday that the problem turned up Wednesday afternoon as staff members were reviewing the law one more time.

The problem is a conflict between the ranked choice law passed by Maine voters in 2016 and Maine’s existing election law. Secretary Dunlap told reporters and lawmakers the two pieces of law provide different methods for determining the winner of the election. He said that if the conflict is not resolved, primary election results could end up being challenged in court.

The secretary of State said he isn't pulling the plug on RCV yet but is clearly concerned.

"I can’t say we are not going to implement ranked choice voting," Dunlap said, "and we have to stay on the path we are on because we are so far down that path and don’t have much time. We have to start printing ballots in a couple of weeks."

Ranked choice supporters are angry about this interruption and uncertainty. Dunlap said for the moment, he is still planning to use ranked choice in June but needs the state legislature or court to tell him if that will be proper.

Supporters dismissed Dunlap's concerns.

"They say this every time they talk about ranked choice voting," said Kyle Bailey of the Yes on One campaign. "This is a legalese dispute intended to create chaos and confusion and raise doubts about ranked choice voting they have done this over and over again."

Bailey said the ranked-choice organization is preparing to ask the court to issue an injunction, to make Dunlap continue with ranked choice voting for June. That request could be filed in court as early as Friday.

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