Supporters of ranked-choice voting have collected more than half the signatures needed for a 2018 referendum to overturn a law that delays switching to the voting process for four years.

Campaign volunteers got approximately 32,000 signatures outside the polls Tuesday, a day after receiving state approval for the petition, said Kyle Bailey, campaign manager for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. The campaign needs 61,123 signatures from registered voters to get a people’s veto on the June 2018 ballot.

The campaign has heard back from approximately 70 percent of Election Day petitioners and hundreds of other people have since requested petition packets so they can collect signatures, Bailey said Saturday.

“That number keeps ticking up as people get back to us,” he said. The campaign had 90 days from Nov. 6 to collect signatures but aims to finish by Dec. 15. It needs about 1,000 signatures a day to reach that goal.

Maine voters approved ranked-choice voting in 2016, but the state supreme court ruled parts of the law unconstitutional. In October, lawmakers voted to delay implementation of ranked-choice voting until 2021 and repeal the law if the Maine Constitution isn’t amended to deal with legal concerns raised by the court.

Based on the response the campaign received last week, voters are fed up with the Legislature’s obstruction, Bailey said.

“People are frustrated that they are having to vote on this a second time and the Legislature couldn’t implement the will of the people or didn’t want to,” Bailey said.

Supporters of ranked-choice voting say the method ensures that winning candidates will have broad majority support, limits incentives for negative campaigning and eliminates vote splitting.

“It gives voters more voice and more choice. People are hungry for that,” Bailey said.

Under the ranked-choice system, voters would rank candidates in order of preference. If no one had more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process would continue until one candidate had a clear majority and was declared the winner.

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.

If campaigners collect enough signatures, it will suspend the Legislature’s delay law until the referendum, Bailey said. That means voters would use ranked-choice voting in the June 2018 primary. If voters override the Legislature, the ranked-choice method will only apply to primaries and congressional elections, not state legislative or gubernatorial elections, the parts of the law the court ruled against, Bailey said.

“The people’s veto is 100 percent constitutional,” he said.

More than 400 volunteers turned out Tuesday to collect signatures and people were clamoring for petitions all last week, Bailey said.

“We just mailed out petition packets, 350 yesterday. This is how many people we are signing up on a daily basis,” he said. “It is pretty extraordinary. I haven’t seen anything like it.”

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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