Congressman seeks new election if outcome is not overturned
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is asking a federal judge to order a new election if he declines to invalidate Maine’s new voting system and declare Poliquin the winner.
Judge Lance Walker declined to stop the ballot-counting process in which Democrat Jared Golden was declared the winner in the nation’s first ranked-balloting in a congressional election.
But Poliquin’s lawsuit is still alive. Poliquin wants the Trump-appointed judge to declare the system unconstitutional.
Poliquin’s request for the judge to either declare him the winner or order a second election was made late Tuesday, a day after Poliquin formally requested a recount that’s expected to take a month.
The updated filing provides a new remedy for the judge, who expressed concern about the fairness of changing the election outcome after voters cast their ballots a certain way relying on the new voting system, said Dmitry Bam, a specialist in constitutional law at the University of Maine Law School.
But Poliquin still faces an uphill battle because the judge appears to be unmoved by the constitutional arguments and because time is running out.
“Any judge would be very hesitant to undo an election,” he said.
The updated court filing late Tuesday was made ahead of a hearing next week on ranked-choice voting in federal court in Bangor.
The voting system, approved in 2016, lets voters rank all candidates on the ballot. Last-place finishers are eliminated and votes reassigned if no candidate emerges as a majority winner in the first round of tallies.
In this case, additional voting tabulations were necessary because Poliquin and Golden both collected 46 percent of first-place votes, meaning neither candidate collected a majority of the vote.
Poliquin won the first round by a margin of about 2,000 votes, but the lead evaporated after additional tabulations.
Golden emerged victorious by about 3,500 votes after two trailing candidates were eliminated and their supporters’ second-choices were reassigned in a computer-assisted process in Augusta.
Kyle Bailey, who led the campaign for ranked voting, said that through his lawsuit Poliquin is publicly working his way through “the five stages of grief over his election.” The real story, he said, is that the system worked well and that voters were happy with it.
Poliquin told WGAN-AM that it’s his responsibility to ensure that every vote in the 2nd Congressional District race has been “legally cast and legally counted. That’s why we’re challenging this.”
For now, the ranked-choice voting system is used only in federal races and in statewide primary elections in Maine.
It cannot be used in the governor’s race or legislative races because of concerns it runs afoul of the Maine Constitution.
Democratic Gov.-elect Janet Mills said she intends to press for an amendment to the Maine Constitution so the system can be used in all elections. That would require legislative approval and another statewide vote.