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Dear Members and Friends of LWVME,

It's Presidents' Day week, and schools are out. State government is closed today, Monday, for the holiday, but the Legislature will be in session beginning on Tuesday at 10:00. You can see their schedule for the week here

There is no action on our priority bills coming up this week, but there's a lot to report from last week.

Recap from Last Week
Ranked Choice Voting
Late on Friday afternoon, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, joined by eight Democratic candidates, filed suit in Maine Superior Court asking the judge to rule that the Secretary of State must proceed with RCV implementation. Here's the complaint. We will post the defendant's factual allegations and legal arguments when they become available. You can read Bangor Daily News coverage here.

The people's veto campaign to restore ranked choice voting delivered over 70,000 signatures to the Secretary of State by the deadline of Friday, February 2. In doing so, they immediately suspended the law passed by the Legislature that delayed implementation of RCV. Put another way, RCV goes ahead for the 2018 primaries IF 61,123 out of those 70,000 signatures are certified.  This not only requires use of RCV for the June primaries, but also puts the people’s veto on the ballot in the same election. Since the number of signatures far exceeds the required threshold, we are confident that the veto question will qualify for the June ballot.  The Secretary of State now has 30 days -- until March 5 -- to verify the signatures and certify the question for the June ballot. The lawsuit is based on concerns about whether the Secretary of State has done enough to prepare for implementation of RCV.  Lawsuit or no, we expect that the primary elections in June will be conducted using RCV at the same time that we vote on whether to preserve RCV for the future.  We will be arguing for faithful implementation of the law and for allocating any resources that might be needed.  Elections matter; let's get to work; let's 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
This bill had its public hearing last Wednesday, and LWVME testified in support of LD 1780. We now have 9 candidates hoping to qualify as Clean Election candidates for Governor (3 Democrats, 1 Republican, 2 Greens, and 3 independents). That's really great! Thanks to our hard work last session with our partners at Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, we secured the baseline funding for Clean Elections in the state budget. With this heightened level of candidate participation, the Ethics Commission is playing it safe and requesting additional funding to make sure we don't run out. The fund has never run out before in the 18-year history of the program, and we don't want to start now.  We will continue advocating for full funding until final action on LD 1780.

Gathering Signatures at the Polls on Election Day
LD 1726 An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Elections
had a work session in the VLA Committee on Wednesday, February 14, after which the committee tabled the bill again. You'll remember that LD 1726 is the bill that would ban signature gathering for citizen initiatives at polling places on Election Day. The public hearing on this bill was held in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee (VLA) on Wednesday, January 3 You can read the League's testimony here. The sentiment from the public hearing was overwhelmingly opposed. The VLA Committee seems divided, with some members in favor of elminating the controversial provisions, and some looking for a way to institute some limits. If your legislator serves on the VLA Committee, you may want to let them know your views. You can find contact information for committee members here.

Voter ID
No change from last week. Governor LePage used his Friday radio address on January 5 to reopen a question that the Legislature addressed last session, as they have in each legislature since 2010: Voter ID. Yes, it's back. You can find the radio address here MP3 Audio, Text version. The Bangor Daily News is reporting that the Speaker of the House is promising to block the move. We'll be watching, too. We have repeatedly and consistently opposed requiring a photo ID to vote. You can read our testimony from 2017 here. The Governor's bill has not yet been printed.

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 so far.
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