In two months, Maine voters will go to the polls to select their nominees to succeed the state’s pugnacious two-term Republican governor, Paul LePage. Whether all of the candidates accept the results of those party primaries, however, remains a surprisingly open question. The June 12 balloting will be the first statewide elections in the nation to use ranked-choice voting, a system Maine voters approved in a 2016 referendum designed to ensure that winners secure a majority—and not merely a plurality—of the vote. But a series of legal challenges and disputes in the state legislature over its implementation have clouded the upcoming primaries in uncertainty, and debate over the format has cleaved along partisan lines. Even as they campaign for support under ranked-choice voting, Republicans are calling for the state’s highest court to toss the new system at the last minute and order the June primaries to be held under traditional rules.
“It’s an absolute disaster,” Mary Mayhew, a Republican gubernatorial candidate and the state’s former health commissioner under LePage, said. “I think it is likely illegal, and it is incredibly confusing to those who administer the elections and to those who are getting ready to vote.”
Mayhew is seen as a leading contender among the four Republicans running, but when I asked her if she’d challenge the results if she lost because of ranked-choice voting, she wouldn’t rule it out. “I will certainly evaluate my options based on the results,” Mayhew told me. “I couldn’t possibly decide at this point what my decision will be.
“I have serious concerns about how this is going to be implemented, and I believe it is fraught with the vulnerability for error,” she continued. “That in and of itself may call into question the results.”