Lawyers for Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and the Democrat who defeated him will square off in federal court Wednesday in a case with ramifications far beyond Maine’s rural, sprawling 2nd District no matter the outcome. For U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Golden and supporters of ranked-choice voting, the election ended two weeks ago after the Democrat emerged from an instant runoff leading Poliquin by 3,509 votes. Yet Poliquin and his team are aiming for more than just a reversal of the election results as they push to make Maine the national, legal test case for ranked-choice voting in any federal election. “Whether a state can go beyond a plurality that is currently provided for in (the Constitution) is an open question the Supreme Court has never decided,” Lee Goodman, Poliquin’s attorney and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said last month.
Poliquin’s legal case already appears to be on shaky ground, at least here in Maine. The federal judge hearing the case has questioned some of Poliquin’s constitutional arguments, and several legal and constitutional scholars have predicted the case will fail.
But Goodman’s reference to the nation’s highest court signals his team is already looking beyond U.S. District Court in Bangor, where both sides will plead their cases this week. Poliquin, a two-term Republican, is also requesting that the judge order a new election, and has formally asked for a hand recount by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office. Neither effort appears likely to succeed.