Around New England

Democrat Declared Winner in Maine U.S. House Race Because of Ranked-Choice Voting

November 15, 2018

Jared Golden lost the election for Congress in Maine on first-choice votes on election night but won it on second-choice and third-choice votes nine days later, Maine’s secretary of state said.

Golden, a Democrat, on Thursday, November 15 was declared the winner of Maine’s Second Congressional District race over the incumbent, U.S. Representative Bruce Poliquin, a Republican.

Poliquin is challenging Maine’s ranked-choice voting in federal court as a violation of the federal constitution. The lawsuit is pending, but a federal judge on Thursday refused to stop the state’s counting of ranked-choice ballots and noted that the federal constitution doesn’t expressly disallow such a system.

On election night last week, Poliquin appeared to have won the race by about 2,000 votes. But he felt short of a majority of the votes cast, which triggered the state’s ranked-choice voting system that voters approved in 2016.

Under the system, election officials eliminated the fourth-place independent candidate and allocated the second choice of each voters to one of the top three vote getters. Then the third-place finisher was eliminated, and the second-place choices (or, if that choice had been eliminated, the third-place choices) of the third-place candidate were allocated to one of the top two vote getters (Poliquin and Golden).

Under that system, Golden ended up with 3,000 more re-figured votes than Poliquin, giving him a majority and the victory.

Poliquin’s lawsuit is pending, so it’s unclear when a victor will be finally declared in the race.

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