The Maine Republican Party says it won’t recognize ranked choice voting in the March 5 presidential primary, adding another layer of complexity to an already confusing election.

The position also puts the state party at odds with former President Donald Trump’s lawyers, who argued in legal briefings that Maine’s use of ranked choice voting could help preserve the integrity of the election in the event he is disqualified by the courts.

Trump’s team argued against the need for Maine’s courts to move forward immediately with a ruling on whether he is eligible for the state’s primary ballot, saying votes for the former president could be redistributed to voters’ second choices during the ranked choice tabulation.

“Maine’s use of ranked choice voting … eliminates any harm if President Trump is ultimately disqualified,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in a briefing arguing in favor of putting the Maine case on hold.

“No irreparable harm will take place, because Maine officials can retabulate the ranked choice ballots to determine the winner by looking to the second and subsequent choice candidates,” the briefing said.

Trump has appealed a ruling by Secretary of State Shenna Bellows that he is ineligible for the ballot because of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riots attempting to disrupt the counting of electoral votes and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. That appeal is on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a similar case out of Colorado. Oral arguments in that case will take place Thursday.


The Maine Republican Party originally said in November that it would not recognize ranked choice voting in the primary, adding to the party’s history of opposition to ranked choice voting. Maine Republicans attempted in 2020 to stop its use in presidential elections.

“One person, one vote is a sacred principle to Republicans, and it should be to all Americans. That principle is what we are defending here in this party primary,” party Chair Joel Stetkis said in November.

Ranked choice voting was approved by Maine voters in 2016 and first used in 2018. In a ranked choice election, a candidate must get more than 50% of the votes to win. If no candidate gets more than 50%, the last-place candidate is eliminated and that candidate’s votes are redistributed to their voters’ second choices. That process carries on until one candidate wins more than 50% of the vote and is declared the winner.

The system ensures that winning candidates earn the support of most voters and prevents vote splitting from causing the “spoiler effect,” allowing a candidate to win with minority support.


Despite the party’s opposition, Maine’s official Republican primary ballots are set up for ranked choice voting consistent with state law. The ballots offer voters the options of picking second and third choices.


The state’s Republican party reiterated its position in an email to voters Tuesday, the day after early absentee voting started for the March 5 primary.

“Mainers will vote on RCV ballots, but the first round of results will be the only round recognized by the party,” it said.

Emily Cook, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of the Secretary of State, said Tuesday that the department will follow Maine law and conduct any ranked choice voting tabulation as needed and provide the results to the parties.

“What the parties do with those results and how they select their delegates for national conventions are up to them as parties,” Cook said.

While the primary results historically determine whom Maine Republicans back as the nominee, the party determines nominating criteria and it is not legally bound by ranked choice results.

Maine Republicans also have strongly criticized Bellows’ decision that Trump is not eligible for the ballot, a dispute that may not be resolved by the courts before March 5.


Voters already have begun casting absentee ballots in the election, and Trump’s name is on the ballot. If he is found by the courts to be ineligible before the election, the secretary of state would not count votes cast for Trump. And if no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, a ranked choice runoff would be conducted.


Stetkis said Tuesday that he believes it is highly unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule to disqualify Trump.

Asked if the party will accept the results of the primary if Trump is disqualified, Stetkis said the party has options.

“At the convention we have the ability to select our own delegates as opposed to using the popular vote process,” he said.

“It’s not something we want to do, but if an activist secretary of state that has time and time again expressed her dislike of the person she’s trying to get off the ballot actually takes them off the ballot, especially after thousands of Mainers say, ‘We want to vote for this guy,’ that’s disenfranchisement and we will take whatever steps necessary to make sure our voters can vote for the person they legally can choose,” he said.

Stetkis did not respond to a follow-up message Tuesday asking what he makes of Trump’s argument in court that the use of ranked choice voting would help preserve the integrity of the election if he is disqualified.

A spokesperson for the Trump campaign did not respond to an email asking what the campaign thinks about the Maine Republican Party’s decision to not use ranked choice voting.

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