Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in danger of not appearing on Maine’s primary ballot after he fell short of the minimum 2,000 signatures needed from Maine voters to qualify for the state’s Republican presidential primary, state officials said Friday.
A letter from Maine’s Director of Elections Heidi M. Peckham said Christie’s campaign only submitted “844 names certified by municipal registrars.” Candidates had to file signatures with the municipal clerks for certification before submitting them to the Secretary of State’s office by 5 p.m. Friday.
Christie has five days to appeal the decision in Maine Superior Court.
“The campaign collected and submitted over 6,000 signatures. This is simply a procedural issue with the way they reviewed signatures and is under appeal,” a spokesperson for Christie’s campaign told CBS News.
As it stands, the Republican candidates who will appear on the GOP primary ballot include former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and pastor Ryan Binkley.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota,in late October, and President Biden, will be on their party’s primary ballot.
The contests are set for March 5, 2024, also known as Super Tuesday, which sees the most state primaries or caucuses on a single day during the election season.
This will be Maine’s first presidential primary election conducted under the new semi-open primary law, according to Maine’s Secretary of State’s office. The unique process allows voters who are registered as unenrolled, with no party affiliation, to vote in any party’s primary. If a voter enrolled as a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Green Independent wants to vote in another party’s primary, they have to leave their current party 15 days before joining a new party and casting a ballot.
Those unenrolled voters make up a significant portion of Maine’s total registered voters. In 2022, they accounted for 265,692 of 929,017 voters, or just over 28% of registered voters, according to available state data.
Similar to its New England neighbor, New Hampshire also has a large independent voting block. Christie has centered his campaign on trying to win in the Granite State, and has made the case that performing well in New Hampshire is his path to the nomination. With low favorability ratings among Republicans, his strategy has been about appealing to independents in theprimary state.
The strategy also goes beyond New Hampshire. Christie’s campaign manager, Maria Comella, laid out the campaign’s thinking in a memo to donors.
“After the field has narrowed naturally, and Christie has established himself as the clear alternative to Trump, there are several state primaries where independents can participate,” Comella wrote. “If Trump can be kept under 50%, Christie can win delegates even in states he does not win.”
Even if Christie is able to narrow in on Trump’s lead, or pull off an upset in New Hampshire, the setback in Maine could complicate this strategy.