Facing Potential Defeat, GOP Congressman Sues to Stop Ranked Choice Voting

AUGUSTA, MAINE – US Rep. Bruce Poliquin filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday to stop ranked choice voting in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. The suit, filed against Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, is seeking an injunction to stop vote tabulation in what would be the first US House race in history to be decided by ranked choice voting.

Maine made history in 2018 as the first to use ranked choice voting for statewide, legislative, and US House and Senate primary elections. Due to a non-binding advisory opinion by the state Supreme Court, RCV was only used for US House and Senate elections on November 6.

Poliquin’s lawsuit comes not long after he raised concerns about ranked choice voting on social media and with local reporters — saying the race would be over if it was not for the new voting method. Yet neither he, nor Democrat Jared Golden — who was less than a percentage point behind Poliquin after the first round of tabulation — were able to get a majority on election night.

The lawsuit claims, among other things, that ranked choice voting violates the US Constitution because the document “sets a plurality vote as the qualification for election.” Here is what the US Constitution has to say about the election of members of Congress:

“The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing [sic] Senators.” – Article 1, Section 4 of the US Constitution

Maine voters have approved ranked choice voting twice now at the ballot box — first in November 2016 and then again to protect it in June. Some state lawmakers tried to delay and set the new voting law up for repeal, but this attempt failed with the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting garnered enough support to put a people’s veto on the 2018 primary ballot.

Nearly 50,000 more people voted on the ranked choice voting ballot measure, than for the governor’s races in both parties combined.

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“Supporters of ranked choice voting are going to vigorously defend against this frivolous challenge to the law,” said James Monteleone, the attorney for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting.

“Clearly, one of the candidates in the race identified what he thought were legal flaws in ranked choice voting but he sat silently until today, allowing voters to go to the polls with the expectation that their second or third choices would be counted, pursuant to the law,” he continued. “We’re going to ask that the court deny that 11th hour request to shut out Maine voters and their right to choose the way we elect our leaders.”

The use of ranked choice voting has already gone before the courts. The Maine Supreme Court upheld its current use in April, and similar challenges have also been defeated.

Interesting to note is that an exit poll released by the Bangor Daily News suggests that Jared Golden is in a good position to overtake Rep. Poliquin’s marginal lead after at least one of the two independents in the race is eliminated and their voters’ second choice is tabulated.

Vote tabulations continue in the district despite the lawsuit. Stay tuned for further developments in this story.

Photo Source: WABI 5