November 12, 2019
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Poliquin to appeal ruling that rejected his legal challenge to ranked-choice voting

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, fields questions from reporters at the Portland International Jetport in this Nov. 27, 2018, file photo.

Outgoing U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin on Monday said he will appeal a federal judge’s ruling last week that rejected the Republican’s challenge to the state’s ranked-choice voting system, a move that could keep the longshot lawsuit alive for months.

Rep.-elect Jared Golden, a Democrat from Lewiston, will be seated in January after beating Poliquin, who was seeking a third term representing Maine’s 2nd District. The November race was decided by a ranked-choice count that survived Poliquin’s constitutional challenges before a judge appointed by President Donald Trump.

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On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker ruled against Poliquin in a lawsuit that looked to invalidate the ranked-choice voting process approved by Maine voters in 2016 and hold a new election. The next day, Poliquin called off a recount of the election that he lost by a margin of more than 1 percentage point to Golden.

Lawyers for Poliquin and three others who voted for him in the November election filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit — the one covering Maine — on Monday. Attorney Lee Goodman said in a statement that voters “deserve absolute assurance that their fundamental right to vote is protected and they are voting in a fair system.”

Aisha Woodward, Golden’s chief of staff, said in an email that Walker’s decision was “crystal clear” and the congressman-elect is “preparing to get to work” after his Jan. 3 swearing-in.

While Poliquin won a plurality of first-choice votes on Election Day, Golden prevailed in the ranked-choice count after winning 44.5 percent of the 23,000 voters who ranked one of the two left-leaning independents in the race first and chose a preference between Golden and Poliquin.

Poliquin filed a lawsuit before the ranked-choice count ended that challenged the voting method on several constitutional and other legal grounds. His case rested on a claim that people who ranked just one choice are effectively disenfranchised as races enter later rounds of counting.

[Judge rejects Poliquin’s challenge to ranked-choice voting]

However, Walker soundly rejected that argument and many others in his decision last week, noting that the votes of people who ranked only Poliquin had their votes counted for him in the end. He found no evidence that “minority rights have been burdened unduly, if at all.”

There is little evidence to suggest that Poliquin’s claim will fare better in the 1st Circuit, where a group of three judges would eventually hear the case. The 1st Circuit is seen as the second-most liberal circuit court in the country, according to a Pratt Institute database.

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