A federal judge on Thursday rejected Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s constitutional claims against ranked-choice voting and denied the incumbent’s request for a new election against Democratic Rep.-elect Jared Golden. U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker ruled that, contrary to the arguments of Poliquin’s legal team, the U.S. Constitution does not require that whichever congressional candidate receives the most votes – or “a plurality” – be declared the winner. Instead, Walker ruled the Constitution grants states broad discretion to run elections and that “there is nothing inherently improper about an election that requires a contestant to achieve victory by a majority,” including by the use of the ranked-choice runoff system endorsed twice by Maine voters. “To the extent that the Plaintiffs call into question the wisdom of using RCV, they are free to do so but . . . such criticism falls short of constitutional impropriety,” Walker wrote. “A majority of Maine voters have rejected that criticism and Article I (of the U.S. Constitution) does not empower this Court to second guess the considered judgment of the polity on the basis of the tautological observation that RCV may suffer from problems, as all voting systems do.”
Maine made history in November by becoming the first state in the nation to use ranked-choice voting in a congressional election. But Poliquin and some Republican allies – including state party leaders – are hoping to turn Maine’s 2nd District race into a national test case for the use of ranked-choice voting in federal elections.
Walker’s decisive ruling struck a blow to those attempts on Thursday and moved Golden one step closer to replacing Poliquin in Washington. A separate recount of the 2nd District race is underway at the Maine Secretary of State’s office but has yet to yield any major discrepancies that would appear to put Poliquin on a path to victory.