A federal judge heard arguments Wednesday aimed at stopping Maine’s unusual ranked-balloting system, even as election staffers scanned votes to determine the winner of last week’s congressional race. Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and three activists sued Tuesday to overturn Maine’s new voting system. U.S. District Judge Lance Walker heard arguments Wednesday about whether to halt the vote-counting process until he has time to rule on the system’s constitutionality. Walker indicated he would rule as soon as Thursday on the request to halt vote-counting. The state’s elections chief also said workers were resuming the counting with an eye toward completing it Thursday. Supporters and opponents of ranked-choice voting were eagerly awaiting both results, and wondering which would come first. Walker’s ruling could have major implications for the future of the voting method, which was approved by Maine voters but has drawn ire from Poliquin and others who believe it is confusing and violates the concept of one person, one vote.
James Monteleone, an attorney who has represented ranked-choice voting supporters, has called the lawsuit “frivolous,” but Poliquin has described the system as too “convoluted” and “chaotic” for voters.
“The ranked-choice voting process has been repeatedly affirmed by the people of Maine,” Monteleone said Wednesday.
The first round of voting on Election Day ended with Poliquin and Democrat Jared Golden both collecting about 46 percent of the vote in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Poliquin held a slim edge and declared himself the “fair and square” winner.
But the ranked-choice system adopted by Maine voters in 2016 requires additional voting rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated and votes reallocated until there is a majority winner.
If the system stands, either Poliquin or Golden will be the first member of Congress elected by such a method.