AUGUSTA — Supporters of ranked-choice voting have received the last-minute authorization needed to gather signatures at the polls Tuesday to overturn a bill delaying Maine’s switch to the voting process.

On Monday afternoon, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap approved the petitions for a “people’s veto” of a law recently passed by the Legislature that delays implementation of ranked-choice voting until 2021. Mainers voted last November to make the state the first in the nation to adopt ranked-choice voting, a type of “instant runoff” that supporters contend is well-suited for a state where many races feature more than two candidates.

But lawmakers, concerned about the constitutionality of the system, approved a bill last month that postpones implementation until 2021 and repeals the law altogether if the Maine Constitution has not been amended by that date.

On Friday, a spokesman for the Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting said more than 300 volunteers were ready to gather “people’s veto” signatures on Election Day. Dunlap’s approval of the petitions and proposed veto language clears the way for signature-gathering at the polls. The campaign has 90 days from Monday to gather the 61,123 signatures of registered voters that are needed to qualify for the June ballot.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the people’s veto question will ask voters: “Do you want to reject the parts of a new law that would delay the use of ranked-choice voting in the election of candidates for any state or federal office until 2022, and then retain the method only if the constitution is amended by December 1, 2021, to allow ranked-choice voting for candidates in state elections?”

Under the ranked-choice system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no one has more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate then have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots are retabulated. The process continues until one candidates has a majority. Maine’s Constitution calls for candidates to be selected by a plurality, in which the candidate with the most votes wins, even if the vote total is less than a majority.

Gov. Paul LePage, an opponent of ranked-choice voting, waited the full 10 days allotted him to allow the delay bill to become law without his signature. As a result, supporters of ranked-choice voting were pressuring Dunlap’s office to approve the petitions by Monday in order for the signature-gathering phase of the “people’s veto” campaign to begin Tuesday as Mainers head to the polls.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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