Court denies Poliquin’s bid to block successor’s swearing-in

December 22, 2018

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A federal appeals court denied Friday the latest effort by New England’s last remaining Republican congressman to declare unconstitutional Maine’s new voting system, which was used in November for the first time in a congressional race.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston denied U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s request to stop from certifying the results of an election won by Democrat Jared Golden, whose swearing-in is Jan. 3.

The decision still leaves Poliquin’s lawsuit alive. But it faces steep odds; he wants courts to either declare him the winner or order another election.

Poliquin is appealing a federal judge’s rejection of constitutional arguments against a system that allows voters to rank candidates. The court Friday said Poliquin’s latest motion lacked a strong likelihood of success.

The ranked-choice system, approved by voters in 2016, allows voters to prioritize candidates. It comes into play when no candidate gets 50 percent of the votes. The second choice votes of voters whose first choice is eliminated get reallocated.

Poliquin didn’t respond Friday to requests for comment.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker said that critics can question the wisdom of ranked-choice voting, but that such criticism “falls short of constitutional impropriety.” The judge rejected several of Poliquin’s constitutional concerns and said the U.S. Constitution gives states leeway in deciding how to elect federal representatives.

Golden’s spokesman said he looks forward to next year.

“Judge Walker’s ruling against Bruce Poliquin was crystal clear,” said Golden’s campaign manager Jon Breed in a statement.

Poliquin had also requested a recount in the race, but later asked state officials to end it. The recount costs around $14,500, which Poliquin must pay under state law. Poliquin has already submitted a $5,000 deposit.

Maine’s top state court last year warned that ranked voting conflicts with the state’s constitution, which says the winners of state-level races are whoever gets the most votes, or a “plurality.” And so Maine uses ranked-choice voting only in federal elections and state primary races, but not for general elections for governor or the Legislature.

Democratic Gov.-elect Janet Mills has vowed to seek to amend the state constitution so the system can be used in all elections.