December 11, 2018
Daily Brief Latest News | Joyce McLain | Ranked-Choice Voting | Anthony Cipolle | Today's Paper

Poliquin’s bid for a 2nd District revote has almost no historic precedent

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, fields questions from reporters at the Portland International Jetport Tuesday morning. Poliquin requested a recount in the 2nd District House race, which he seemingly lost to Democratic challenger Jared Golden after the secretary of state's office employed ranked-choice voting in tabulation of final numbers.

Good morning from Augusta. U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Golden has begun doing work in Washington, D.C., but outgoing Rep. Bruce Poliquin is continuing his uphill court fight against the ranked-choice voting election that lost him the seat in Maine’s 2nd District.

The Republican incumbent has proposed two different remedies to U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker: If the judge doesn’t invalidate the ranked-choice round of voting over constitutional concerns to declare Poliquin the winner, he should order a new election between Poliquin, Golden and the two independents whose supporters decided the race.

Poliquin’s case is the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary. While Walker will hear a arguments in the case on Dec. 5, he already allowed the ranked-choice count to proceed while saying that the Republican was unlikely to prove that ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional.

But Poliquin’s new proposed remedy is still worth examining. It is virtually unprecedented in U.S. politics except in cases of fraud and one deadlocked New Hampshire election from the 1970s.

There has only been one statewide revote in the history of federal elections, though federal courts have ordered new elections in cases of irregularities. During the Florida recount controversy of the 2000 presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, a media focus re-emerged on a crazy 1974 U.S. Senate election in Maine’s neighboring state.

In that race, Republican Louis Wyman appeared to beat Democrat John Durkin by 355 votes on Election Day. But Durkin asked for a recount that he won by 10 votes. There were allegations of irregularities and it led to nasty fighting in Washington, D.C., and New Hampshire.

After the candidates got tired of waiting, the Senate ordered a new election between Wyman and Durkin at their request. The Los Angeles Times called it the only revote on record in federal elections. It wasn’t close. Durkin rode massive turnout to a 27,000-vote win in September 1975, which should be warning that new elections don’t measure past voter sentiment.

Though it is exceedingly rare, courts have allowed new elections in lower-tier races in cases of fraud or other irregularities. That was the case in an Indiana mayoral race from 2004 and a 2005 municipal race in Connecticut.

Poliquin will get a recount, but there is no major evidence of irregularities in the 2nd District election so far. Poliquin requested a recount of the race on Monday. Since he lost the election by a margin of more than 1 percentage point, he will have to pay for the recount unless it changes the outcome of the election. That is unlikely, but the recount could take up to four weeks to finish.

Republicans have trumpeted several aspersions around the counting. Poliquin’s campaign has said that it has heard from Mainers who were afraid that their votes weren’t counted, although there is no evidence of that.

This week, the Maine Republican Party called the process “broken” after Secretary of State Matt Dunlap added a net total of 600 votes to Golden’s margin. However, Dunlap’s office has said that came after a routine check finding that 6,100 votes from six municipalities weren’t properly uploaded into the system that counted the votes.

Unless something has happened that we don’t know about yet, Golden will be the next congressman and Poliquin’s fight is likely to fail.


Reading list

— More lobster deaths and shorter winters by 2040 is one scenario to glean from new UMaine climate report. Released earlier this month by the Climate Change Institute at UMaine, the report imagines five climate change scenarios with warmer, rising sea temperatures, longer summers, shorter winters and more storms. Most of the report’s predictions, which align with the National Climate Assessment, show overall temperature increases in Maine by 2040, resulting in more extreme weather. Rising ocean temperatures have been favorable for lobstering, but once summer sea temperatures rise above 68 degrees, which it’s expected to, the rate of lobster deaths will also rise. Institute director Paul Mayewski, who wrote the report, called climate change, “the biggest security threat we have in the world.”

— Gov. Paul LePage has spent nearly a quarter of a million to argue against spending for court-ordered Medicaid expansion. LePage’s administration has spent $228,316 in legal expenses since July to defend the 2017 voter-approved expansion, CBS 13 reported. Earlier this week, the outgoing governor requested a stay of Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy’s decision last week ordering the Department of Health and Human Services to grant the expansion before Dec. 5. LePage said the expansion would “prompt a fiscal crisis.”

— Golden and Maine’s Democratic congresswoman were split on putting a party leader back in the speaker’s chair. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District who won reelection in November, voted to support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s nomination to be speaker Wednesday, while Golden voted against her nomination after repeatedly calling for new party leadership during his campaign against Poliquin. Pelosi only needed a simple majority of Democrats to win the nomination, but she’ll need a majority of the chamber to take the position.

CorrectionThe Maine-centered report on climate change predicted shorter, not longer, winters. An earlier heading was mistyped.


S.O.S. Robert

It’s Thursday, which means it’s almost Friday, which means the weekend is practically here. Our fearless leader, Robert Long, has been gone two weeks, eating and drinking his way across Europe — hey, listen, we’re all entitled to decompress our own way.

He’ll be back with us Monday, but gosh it doesn’t feel soon enough. Robert, if you can hear us, please come home. Here’s your soundtrack. — Alex Acquisto

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd and Alex Acquisto. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to receive Maine’s leading newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings. Click here to subscribe to the BDN.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com or aacquisto@bangordailynews.com.


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