LePage declares he 'probably' won't certify election results, but secretary of state says they're still binding


Gov. Paul LePage announced he may not certify the results from a historic vote Tuesday because he is opposed to a new way of voting.

Tuesday is the first time in Maine where 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.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, in an interview Tuesday morning, said the election results will be binding whether LePage certifies them or not.

Under Maine law, the governor shall issue an election certificate or a notice of apparent election to each person elected to office, but may not issue a certificate while an election is contested in court.

But Tuesday’s election is a primary, not a general election, which means candidate are being nominated by their parties to run for office, not being elected to positions, Dunlap said. That means the governor doesn’t have a role to certify the results at all.

“His role is more or less ceremonial, he cannot stop the stop the nominations from going forward to the general election,” Dunlap said.

The law is pretty clear, though, that LePage will need to certify the results of Question 1, a people’s veto referendum on ranked-choice voting, he added.

In April, the Maine Supreme Court ruled that ranked-choice voting was the law of the land and had to be used for the June elections. The voting method was approved by voters in 2016.

When he incorrectly said Maine previously had ranked-choice voting, the governor was 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.

LePage said “Maine people continually to be (sic) snookered by out-of-state big money and out-of-state people” to adopt measures like ranked-choice voting, which was approved by referendum in 2016.

Under Maine law, the governor shall issue an election certificate or a notice of apparent election to each person elected to office, but may not issue a certificate while an election is contested in court.

Julie Rabinowitz, the governor’s press secretary, declined to address specific questions about why LePage was opposed to ranked-choice voting, what would happen if he didn’t certify the results and what LePage meant when he said he would leave it up to the courts.

“We are not speculating on any actions; the voters need to vote,” Rabinowitz said in a written reply. “The governor encourages all people to go vote, and reminds unenrolled voters that they can vote on the ballot initiative even if they choose not to enroll to vote in a primary today, and unregistered voters can register at the polls to vote on the initiative as well as the primaries and any municipal elections.”

This story will be updated.



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