Republicans continue to press on with their nationwide campaign to bend the nation’s electoral system in their favor no matter what the cost — and they also continue to face roadblocks. This past Thursday, Maine’s U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker threw out a legal challenge from Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin to the state’s “ranked choice voting” system. The incumbent — who lost his bid for re-election according to the unofficial results — had claimed that the system violated voters’ constitutional rights, including their First Amendment right to self-expression.
Walker said that’s nonsense. In the system — as its name suggests — voters rank their choices so if no candidate gets a simple majority of the votes, “run-offs” can be held without having to actually hold a new election. The worst performing candidate gets removed, and their supporters’ votes go their second choices, and so on.
Through that process, Democratic Congressional contender Jared Golden emerged just under a few thousand votes ahead of Poliquin after the recently held midterm elections.
Poliquin has a therefore glaringly obvious reason to go after the nature of the electoral process in court, but he’s holding himself out as an ardent defender of voting rights anyway.
‘From the beginning, I’ve made clear that this Constitutional voting rights issue goes far beyond one election. Now that Maine voters have experienced the complicated and confusing Rank Voting in a real general election, it’s more important than ever to ensure that every Mainer is able to cast his vote legally and fairly.’
It’s really not that complicated. Other state have run-off elections — Georgia, for instance, almost went to one over their governor’s race, but Republican Brian Kemp ended up with just enough votes to be victorious. Mississippi did hold a run-off election to decide their next U.S. Senator, choosing Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith.
Poliquin just wants to win.
Walker insisted, however, noting that Ranked Choice Voting had been voted into place by a majority of Maine’s 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. 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.’
It’s not the first time Republicans have sought to bend the law to put them ahead in an election.
In Pennsylvania ahead of the midterm elections, for instance, they launched repeated legal challenges to an initiative to make Congressional District lines fairer, but those efforts ultimately failed and the new lines were in place for the midterms. Seats in the state contributed to the Democrats’ pickup of some 40 House seats across the United States.
The Portland Press Herald reports that it’s “unclear” whether or not Golden, the apparent victor from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, will be able to be seated alongside his Democratic colleagues come January. There’s still the looming specter of Poliquin’s court case — which has a few voters as co-plantiffs — and a recount that could take a few more weeks to complete.
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