Part of a governor's job is to put an official stamp on election results. But Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) doesn't want to.
In a routine letter to newly elected state lawmakers meant to certify that they did, indeed, win their election, LePage cast a big, heaping pile of doubt on their wins — despite providing zero evidence anything went wrong.
State Sen.-elect Justin Chenette (D) tweeted a copy of LePage's letter. It reads:
`"I am issuing this summons and signing this election certificate despite the fact that I maintain strong concerns regarding the integrity of Maine's ballot and accuracy of Maine's election results and I cannot attest to the accuracy of the tabulation certified by the Secretary of State."
In other words: I guess you won. But I personally don't believe it.
One incoming state Democratic lawmaker posted the letter to his Facebook page, calling it "so embarrassing. And nobody gives a [bleep] what you can attest to."
It's not entirely clear what's coloring LePage's heavy doubt about his state's election system. It bears repeating he gave no evidence to back up his claim, and also, there is no evidence from state elections officials that anything happened to call results into question. Maine is also not a hotbed of electoral naughtiness. The Bangor Daily News partnered with nonprofit news organizations to monitor reports of voter fraud on Election Day, and they reported "no such allegations were reported or found in Maine."
LePage's fraud claim is even more odd when you consider that the results actually favored Maine Republicans. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the state, but Republicans held onto their majority in the state Senate by one seat and gained seats in the state House. Also, GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin won his reelection race by 10 points despite being one of the most endangered lawmakers in 2016. (LePage wasn't up for reelection in November, and he'll be term-limited out of office in 2018.)
LePage, who is no stranger to controversy, spent a significant amount of time before the election trying to cast doubt on it. In October, he said he doesn't think the state's voting process is "clean" because voters don't have to show IDs.
“I’m not confident of a clean election in Maine,” LePage said in an interview on WVOM radio, sidestepping a comment by the show’s hosts, Ric Tyler and George Hale, that he was twice elected governor under the same election system he was questioning – and also elected mayor of Waterville twice. “The Democrat Party insists on not having IDs. Will people from the cemetery be voting? Yes.”
Maine Democrats figured LePage was trying to set the stage for an eventual Donald Trump loss. Right around the same time, Trump was throwing out baseless accusations that if he lost the presidential election, it would be because it was "rigged."
The day before Election Day, LePage raised concerns about college students voting. Literally, the fact that they were voting was his concern: He said he was worried that college students voting in Maine could lead to them double voting in other states. (College students can vote either in the state where they go to school or their home state.)
Once again, LePage provided no evidence to his claim. And Maine's Democratic secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap, immediately contradicted LePage by saying there was no evidence college students voting leads to fraud.
LePage is making his latest election-fraud claims just a few days after Trump floated his own:
The irony of all this is that Maine is leading the country in voter reform. This November, voters there approved the first ever statewide ranked-choice voting system, which I explained earlier this week:
Instead of voting for only one candidate, with the top candidate winning, voters rank their choices from favorite to least. If one candidate doesn't get a majority of the votes, then the candidates ranked the lowest are eliminated, and voters rank their choices again, and on it goes until one candidate gets a majority of the votes.
Ranked choice isn't aimed at preventing voter fraud so much as it is designed to prevent candidates voters don't like from winning. Some supporters of ranked-choice voting point out that it could have prevented LePage becoming governor: He won in 2010 with less than 38 percent of the vote. It's not clear whether he believes that election was rigged.