The recount that began Thursday in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race could leave the seat vacant and the district without representation when Congress convenes in January. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and a Republican House staff member involved in the seating decision issued conflicting opinions on the matter Thursday, making it uncertain whether Maine will have a 2nd District representative if the recount isn’t completed before new members of Congress are sworn in Jan. 3. Workers from the Maine Secretary of State’s Office gathered in a converted conference room Thursday and started the arduous task of hand-counting the 300,000 ballots cast in the election, which saw Democratic challenger Jared Golden beat incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin by about 3,500 votes. Poliquin asked for the recount on Nov. 26 after Golden was declared the winner. Poliquin also has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the ranked-choice voting system.
Courtney Parella, a spokeswoman for the Committee on House Administration, said Thursday that Golden has been participating in new member orientation and was assigned an office suite, but wouldn’t be sworn in without an election certificate from the state.
“We swear in based on when we receive the certificate of election from the state, so until we receive that, the office will remain vacant,” Parella said.
Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, said Dunlap would not issue an election certificate in the race until the recount – a process that could take up to four weeks – was completed or ended. However, the recount will break for the holiday week of Dec. 24, meaning it is unlikely to be completed before the House swearing-in Jan. 3.