The federal judge considering U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s objections to Maine’s ranked-choice voting system will hear arguments Dec. 5 on the congressman’s request to have the voting method declared unconstitutional and be declared the winner of the Nov. 6 election.
U.S. District Judge Lance Walker is poised to make a decision before the Dec. 14 deadline when election results must arrive at the U.S. House of Representatives.
The judge on Friday granted a request from Lee Goodman, the Washington, D.C., attorney heading up Poliquin’s legal team, to set an expedited schedule in the case.
Walker agreed to Poliquin’s requested schedule and set the hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to declare ranked-choice voting unconstitutional and to declare Poliquin the winner of the Nov. 6 election for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, in Bangor at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building.
Following the ranked-choice tabulation completed Thursday in Augusta, Democrat Jared Golden won the election in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District with 50.53 percent of the vote to Republican Poliquin’s 49.47 percent. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap announced the final count about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, two hours after Walker denied Poliquin’s motion for a temporary restraining order to stop the tabulation of ballots.
Poliquin’s 25-page complaint, filed Tuesday in federal court in Bangor, argued that ranked-choice voting violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees to due process and equal protection and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. No court has specifically addressed those arguments, but last year, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said the method ran afoul of the Maine Constitution as it pertained to statewide general elections, though it cleared the way for ranked-choice voting in the June primaries and didn’t address the method’s use in federal elections.
Walker allowed the underlying lawsuit to go forward in his 16-page ruling denying Poliquin’s motion to stop the ballot count. It touched on some of Poliquin’s constitutional objections to ranked-choice voting but did not directly address whether the voting method violates the U.S. Constitution.
Dmitry Bam, a constitutional law professor at the University of Maine School of Law, told the BDN this week that Poliquin’s chances of gaining traction for his case at this point are slim.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, a judge’s [initial] decision on a temporary restraining order is going to be the final decision,” he said.
“What does commonly happen is once you lose a temporary restraining order, you often drop the case, because that’s a pretty clear signal that you’re not going to win,” Bam added. “Quite often litigants get the message that it’s futile.”