As Mainers headed to the polls for primary voting Tuesday morning, Gov. Paul LePage announced he may not certify the results. Tuesday is the first time in Maine when voters statewide will use a ranked-choice system, which allows voters to submit a ballot that ranks votes for candidates in order of preference. It is being used in both parties’ voting for gubernatorial candidates, a race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House in the state’s 2nd Congressional district and a state legislative seat. LePage, in an interview with WCSH-TV, called the voting system “the most horrific thing in the world” and said he “probably” won’t certify the results and instead will “leave it up to the courts to decide.”
LePage also said, incorrectly, that Maine had ranked-choice voting before and former Gov. Joshua Chamberlain “got rid of it” because it was not working.
The governor is apparently referring to a disputed election for governor in 1880 in which three candidates split the vote and the leader in the balloting failed to get a majority, which was then required in the state Constitution. The Legislature eventually picked the leader in the voting to serve as governor, but one candidate asked Chamberlain, as head of the state militia, to lead troops in Augusta to maintain order. Chamberlain, who had been governor from 1866 to 1870, sent the troops home.
The Constitution was changed to require only a plurality – the most votes, regardless of whether it makes a majority – to elect the governor and candidates for the state Legislature.