Congressman challenges election system, not tally

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- A Maine candidate challenges the system, not the vote count.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) owns a narrow lead in his run for re-election – but that’s expected to evaporate in a pending ranked choice run-off. Tuesday, he asked a federal court to call the race now.

Over the course of 22 pages, lawyers for Poliquin and other republican voters argue the race should be over. With nearly every vote counted, the incumbent leads democratic challenger Jared Golden by about 2,000 votes.

Under Maine’s system, because neither Poliquin nor Golden convinced a majority of voters to make them their first choice, the fallback picks of those who preferred other candidates are counted.

“I realize it’s a hullabaloo in Maine but to me, it seems ranked choice voting is working,” said Ruth Greenwood, Senior Legal Voting Counsel for Campaign Legal Center.

That’s expected to favor Golden. Poliquin, argues the federal court ought to declare him the winner based on the first count.

Poliquin’s lawyers argue the system creates an uneven playing field for voters, kills strategic voting, and violates the constitution. Greenwood said challenges brought against ranked choice systems used by cities elsewhere in the country leaned on similar arguments.

“The way that it has traditionally been challenged is to say that ranked choice voting violates the one-person, one-vote,” said Greenwood, “there have been quite a few and they have resoundingly lost.”

Greenwood said Maine’s federal district court hasn’t ruled on this directly before, but the court above it – the First Circuit Court of Appeals -- previously protected ranked choice voting. She said the Supreme Court is Poliquin’s best chance for winning his case, but even if it makes it that far – she argues it’s a long-shot.

“I think the legal footing is pretty firm to say that ranked choice voting is absolutely constitutional,” Greenwood said.

Maine did not use ranked choice voting for its Governor’s race because of a conflict with state law. Now, voters will wait to see if a court will find friction with federal law too.

You can find the full lawsuit in the documents tab and can find more of our coverage on related links.

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