Judge rejects GOP lawmaker's lawsuit over Maine's new voting system

A federal judge on Thursday tossed a lawsuit from Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) that included constitutional challenges of Maine's ranked-choice voting (RCV) system and a request for a new election.

Poliquin said he thought the ranked-choice system was unconstitutional.

"To the extent that the Plaintiffs call into question the wisdom of using RCV, they are free to do so but for the reasons that I have indicated previously and upon which I elaborate presently, such criticism falls short of constitutional impropriety,” U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker wrote in his ruling, according to The Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

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“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,” he wrote.

The Press Herald notes that Walker additionally ruled that the Constitution does not mandate that congressional elections be decided by a "plurality" of votes. Walker, who was appointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE, also ruled that the Constitution gives states the ability to decide how it will run elections. 

Ranked-choice voting requires voters to submit a ballot that ranks candidates in order of preference. The candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the vote wins. An instant-runoff situation occurs if no candidate reaches that figure.

In this situation, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and those votes are then reallocated to the voters' second choices. 

Democratic challenger Jared Golden defeated Poliquin in a ranked-choice runoff for the 2nd Congressional District last month. He defeated the two-term GOP congressman by approximately 3,500 votes, according to a tabulation of voters’ ranked-choice ballots.

A ranked-choice runoff was required in the race because no candidate secured a majority of votes on Election Day. It was the first use of ranked balloting in a congressional election, according to Bloomberg.

Poliquin was part of a group that sued Maine over its new voting system in November. The Press Herald notes that Walker had already cited holes in Poliquin's argument when initially rejecting his campaign's request to stop the ranked-choice runoff.

It remains unclear if Poliquin or the other plaintiffs in the case will appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals decision.