New Maine Voting System Faces Post-Election Challenge

BANGOR, Maine (CN) –  At risk of losing his seat in Congress to a Democratic challenger, a Maine Republican brought a federal complaint Tuesday in protest of the state’s new system of ranked-choice voting.

Maine adopted ranked-choice voting after voters passed a ballot measure in 2016 that requires, in races with more than two candidates, voters to rank their choices.

If no candidate gains a majority of the vote, the second choice of those voters who chose the least-successful candidate would get their votes. The process repeats each round until one candidate has the majority of votes.

Represented by the firm Wiley Rein in Washington, D.C., and by Bangor attorney Rudman Winchell, Rep. Bruce Poliquin is joined in the case by three GOP voters. They all contend that the new ranked-choice law distorts the wishes of voters, particular those who chose to only select one candidate, like all four plaintiffs did, instead of ranking them.

“Ranked choice voting/instant-runoff voting can arbitrarily distort majority will in elections and can cause a voter’s vote for a particular candidate to reduce that candidate’s electoral chance to win,” the complaint states. “This phenomenon, unique to ranked choice voting/instant-runoff voting, constitutes fundamentally unfair treatment of votes.”

First elected to Congress in 2014, Poliquin faced three challengers in the midterm election last week. Although Poliquin came out of the race with the most votes, he only obtained 46.2 percent of the vote, which triggers the second round of voting.

Independent candidate Will Hoar came in last place with 2.4 percent of the vote, but top two candidates finished close enough that Hoar’s 6,812 could easily tip the scales in favor of Democratic challenger Jared Golden.

“Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to protect their right to vote – and to vote effectively – in federal elections,” the complaint states. “This right is being undermined by Maine’s ‘Act to Establish Ranked-Choice Voting,’ which has replaced the plurality-based, single-election system used in this state for nearly 140 years with an exotic, ranked choice voting system described as ‘costly,’ ‘confusing,’ and ‘depriv[ing] voters of genuinely informed choice.’”

Maine’s Supreme Court found last year that the new Ranked-Choice Voting law violated the state constitution, which specifically calls for state elections to be settled by a plurality of the vote. The court’s decision also noted that the state Legislature could simply amend the Maine Constitution if it desired to institute ranked-choice voting.

Voters blocked an effort by the legislature to slow down or outright repeal the law through a ballot-measure during June’s Maine primary.

A representative for Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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