December 10, 2019
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1st Circuit ends Poliquin’s efforts to keep House seat

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
This combination of file photos show U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2017, left, and state Rep. Jared Golden in 2018, right, in Maine. Federal Judge Lance Walker has dismissed a lawsuit by Poliquin aimed to nullify outcome of first ranked choice congressional election won by Golden.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals denied U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s attempt to keep Democrat Jared Golden from succeeding him Jan. 3 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A three-judge panel issued a one-page order at about 2:30 p.m. Friday denying the congressman’s appeal of a lower-court judge’s ruling against him because he didn’t “have a strong likelihood of success on the merits.”

The underlying appeal challenging the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting will go forward but would not impact the results of the Nov. 6 election that Golden won.

Poliquin’s legal team late Monday asked the court to prevent Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap from certifying the election results and sending a certificate of election to the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, Dunlap appeared to have undermined a key argument of the appeal by sending a letter to Karen L. Hass, the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, in which he declared Golden the winner of the Nov. 6 election and enclosed a certificate of election.

The House must receive the certificate before a representative can be sworn in. Typically it is signed by a state’s governor. In Maine, however, the secretary of state can sign it.

Gov. Paul LePage’s spokesman said Tuesday he would not sign the certificate due to the pending litigation.

Golden is expected to be seated in the U.S. House as part of a new Democratic majority in January after beating Poliquin, who was seeking a third term.

As a stop-gap measure, Golden told the Lewiston Sun Journal that he would send a member of his staff to Gov.-elect Janet Mills’ inauguration on Jan. 2 to have her sign the certificate of election in case the clerk of the House refused to accept the one Dunlap signed at his swearing-in the following day.

Poliquin and three Republican voters sued Dunlap on Nov. 13 in federal court in Bangor. LePage was added as a defendant two weeks later after Golden and independent candidate Tiffany Bond, along with two of her supporters, were granted intervenor status. The lawsuit sought to invalidate the ranked-choice voting process approved by Maine voters in 2016 and again earlier this year.

Poliquin’s latest effort to keep his House seat came days after U.S. District Judge Lance Walker issued a 30-page decision against the congressman in which Poliquin asked Walker to order a new election. The day after Walker’s Dec. 13 ruling, Poliquin called off a recount he had requested, which was already underway in Augusta.

The emergency motion in the appeal argued that Walker “sidestepped the explicit questions presented, often casting the questions at a more superficial level of analysis.” Poliquin also asked the appeals court to issue its decision by Friday.

 

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the date of Poliquin’s original lawsuit.


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