A federal judge said Wednesday he would try to issue an order Thursday on whether counting of ranked-choice votes in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District election would continue or be halted while the constitutionality of the process is decided. Ballot counting by state election officials will likely be finished by Thursday, said Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. That could make a portion of the lawsuit moot, but the judge still could consider and rule on the underlying constitutional issues. Two-term U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and three supporters sued Dunlap on Tuesday to stop the ranked-choice ballot count and declare him the winner in his re-election contest against Democrat Jared Golden.
U.S. District Judge Lance Walker presided over a 2½-hour hearing in federal court in Bangor on Wednesday morning in which lawyers representing Poliquin, two of his challengers — Golden and independent candidate Tiffany Bond — and Dunlap presented their legal arguments. None of the candidates nor Dunlap attended the hearing.
Poliquin’s legal team also asked Walker for a temporary restraining order to force Dunlap to stop processing ranked-choice ballots. Despite the lawsuit, Dunlap, a Democrat, and his staff have continued processing ballots with the expectation that they would run a second count by the end of this week.
Based on unofficial totals, Poliquin received roughly 1,500 more first-choice votes than Golden on election night. Poliquin garnered 46.3 percent of the vote to Golden’s 45.6.