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Dear Members and Friends of LWVME,

The statutory adjournment date for the "short" legislative session is just under ten days away -- Wednesday, April 18.  With lots of work yet to be done, the legislature will be in full session Monday through Friday, beginning today at 10:00 a.m. You can see their full schedule for the week here.

Recap on Where Things Stand Going into the Final Weeks
Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked choice voting is back in court. This time, Senate Republicans are suing the Secretary of State to stop ranked choice voting. The Secretary of State, represented by attorneys from the office of the Attorney General, is arguing that it should go forward. This is headed for the Maine Supreme Judical Court on a fast track -- the courts will have to decide soon. Final proofing of ballots for the June 12 primary is on deadline for April 20 at the latest.

So what happened last week? On Monday, Senate President Mike Thibodeau brought forward a virtually unprecedented Senate Order, SO 28, authorizing the Senate President to engage legal counsel to represent the interests of the Senate and initiate litigation regarding ranked choice voting. That measure passed with bipartisan support. You can see the roll call vote here. Those voting "yes" were voting to support passage of the special order. By Tuesday, the Senate was in court.

On Thursday, Senator Carpenter proposed SP 730, a Joint Order directing the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee to report out a bill to implement ranked choice voting, to no avail. This bill failed to clear the Senate.

We are disappointed in these maneuvers. Regardless of your views about ranked choice voting, the public is poorly served by disrupting the regular order at the eleventh hour. The June election should proceed with RCV, and the legislature should provide whatever modest funding is requested by the Secretary of State to underwrite that effort, if any funding is necessary. If you want to let your legislators know your views on this matter, you can find contact information here.

Meanwhile, implementation of RCV rolls along. On Wednesday, March 28, the Secretary of State published emergency rules for the conduct of RCV elections. Read our press release on the rules here. The League submitted constructive comments on the new rules by the deadline last Friday, April 6. You can read our letter and our comments on the rules here.

At this writing, we still expect to have ranked choice voting in the June primary, possibly bolstered by a court order that could come as soon as the end of this week. If so, we will have ranked choice voting in the Republican and Democratic primaries for governor, in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District, and in the Republican primary for State Representative in District 75 (Turner, Leeds, Livermore).

Elections matter. Let’s work together to get this right.

Funding for Clean Elections
LD 1780 An Act to Transfer Funds to the Maine Clean Election Fund To Provide Adequate Funding for Maine Clean Election Fund Candidates
With this bill, the Ethics Commission is requesting a modest amount of additional funding for the Maine Clean Election Fund to make sure that the fund does not run out of money in 2018. The qualifying deadline for gubernatorial Clean Election candidates was April 2. We now have three gubernatorial candidates certified for Clean Elections: one Democrat, one independent, and one Republican.  Legislative candidates have until April 20 to qualify, and hundreds of them are participating in the Clean Elections program. The fund has never run out before in the 18-year history of the program, and we don't want to start now. LWVME testified in support of LD 1780 at its public hearing in February.

The bill went to floor votes with an amendment calling for the transfer request to be reduced from $1.7 million to $700,000. The amended bill passed in the House and cleared a procedural vote in the Senate with bipartisan support. You can see the key roll call vote here. Those voting "no" were voting with us. The bill has been placed on the Special Appropriations Table pending enactment in the Senate as part of the overall appropriations process. This will probably go down to the wire. Let your representatives know that you support LD 1780. You can find contact information here.

Amending the Maine State Constitution for Citizen Initiatives

LD 31, RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Require That Signatures on a Direct Initiative of Legislation Come from Each Congressional District
No change from last week. This bill was carried over from the first session. It was taken up in the
VLA Committee as one of their first actions in the second session and reported out on January 18 with a divided report (11 voting Ought to Pass as Amended; 1 voting Ought Not to Pass). The bill has been appearing on the House calendar but has not yet been taken up. If you want to let your legislators know your views on this measure, you can find contact information here.

Gathering Signatures at the Polls on Election Day
LD 1726 An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Elections.  You'll remember that LD 1726 is the bill that would ban signature gathering for citizen initiatives at polling places on Election Day. You can read the League's testimony here. The sentiment from the public hearing was overwhelmingly opposed. The VLA Committee voted a divided report, with some members in favor of eliminating the controversial provisions and some looking for a way to institute some limits. The House passed one version, the Senate passed the other. The bill went to final floor votes in the House and Senate last week. Neither side would give. LD 1726 died in non-concurrence. In the end, some important housekeeping provisions for election administration fell victim to the continuing, mostly partisan dispute over restricting citizen initatives.

More on Regulating Citizen Initiative Campaigns
LD 1865 An Act to Increase Transparency in the Initiative Process
This after-deadline bill had its public hearing and work session weeks ago, and got reported out of committee last week with an 11-2 divided report, Ought to Pass as Amended. The amended bill contains some important new provisions for the disclosure of large donations to citizen initiative campaigns, which we support. It also includes strict new limits on who can serve as a notary public on citizen initiative campaigns. It appeared on the House calendar last week but did not come up for a vote.

Voter ID
No new developments. The Governor's bill has been printed but has not yet been referred to committee. It's LD 1846, An Act To Require the Provision of Photographic Identification by Voters. It appears to be similar boilerplate language to what has been introduced and defeated each session since 2010. You can read the League's testimony on the photo ID bill from last year. Even though we have defeated this measure in Maine numerous times before, we can't take anything for granted this year. The Bangor Daily News reported that the Speaker of the House is promising to block the bill. We'll be watching, too. We have repeatedly and consistently opposed requiring a photo ID to vote, and we'll be there this year, too.
Presidential Primaries vs. Caucuses
No change from last week. On January 3, the Office of the Secretary of State delivered its Report Regarding Establishing a Presidential Primary System in Maine. The requirement for this report was created by the 127th Legislature, which passed a presidential primary law and directed the Secretary of State to examine state and municipal costs for conducting such a primary and report back by December 1, 2017. The legislation enacted in 2016 includes an automatic repeal provision with an effective date of December 1, 2018.  Therefore, if the legislature does not take action this session, our presidential nominations will revert to the caucus system and not primaries. There has been no action or enthusiasm to work this so far.

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