Federal Judge Rejects Lawsuit From Republican Incumbent Seeking to Declare Maine’s Voting System Unconstitutional

Last week, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker rejected Maine Republican congressional incumbent Bruce Poliquin’s lawsuit, which sought to have the state’s ranked voting system declared unconstitutional. Despite having the most first-place votes, Poliquin filed the lawsuit after losing the election to Democrat Jared Golden. Poliquin asked the judge to either declare him the election’s winner or order another 2nd Congressional District election.

In a ranked-choice voting system, voters rank candidates in order of their preference. Tabulation then moves forward in sequential rounds in which the candidate who ranks last is out of the running and the candidate with the most votes in the last round ultimately ends up elected. A version of this system has been used in some local jurisdictions for years, including San Francisco County. In this type of system, voters are encouraged to both identify their first choice candidate and rank the remaining candidates in order of preference.

In making his decision, Judge Walker noted that states are granted considerable flexibility in how they choose to conduct elections. While ranked-choice voting systems may be questioned for their effectiveness, Judge Walker stated that such criticism “falls short of constitutional impropriety.”

It is unknown if Poliquin plans to appeal the ruling. Meanwhile, a recount is underway at Poliquin’s request, which is anticipated to continue for a few more weeks.

Additional Resources

Judge Tosses Lawsuit by GOP Congressman Who Lost Election, Miami Herald, December 13, 2018

Assessing the Challenge to Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting System for Congressional Elections, Verdict, November 30, 2018

Baber et al v. Dunlap via Justia Dockets

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