Politics

Maine’s Bruce Poliquin Loses in Ranked-Choice Voting

Democrat Jared Golden claimed lead after third-party candidates eliminated

Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin has lost to Democrat Jared Golden. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrat Jared Golden has defeated Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the nation’s first use of ranked-choice voting for a congressional race, according to state election officials.

The Democrat won just over 50 percent of the vote in the ranked-choice tabulation, meaning he’ll be the next congressman from the 2nd District unless Poliquin’s legal challenges to the voting system prevail. 

A Golden win in the 2nd District, which President Donald Trump carried in 2016, mean Democrats have picked up 35 seats and wiped out all New England Republicans in the House. 

Poliquin led Golden by less than a point on the first count, but since neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote, the state’s ranked-choice voting system kicked in to determine the winner. 

The new system, which voters have twice approved at the ballot box, lets voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no one receives a majority, the last-place finisher is eliminated and his or her votes reallocated to the candidates whom voters ranked second. The process continues until someone secures more than 50 percent of the vote.

A federal judge on Thursday morning rejected a lawsuit from Poliquin that sought to stop the secretary of state from running the ranked-choice voting tabulation. But Poliquin’s suit had also asked the district court judge to rule ranked-choice voting unconstitutional, and in a statement after Thursday morning’s ruling, his campaign said it planned to further litigate its constitutional concerns over the voting system, even if Poliquin had won under the new system.

Poliquin reiterated that commitment in a statement after the ranked-choice tabulation resulted in a win for Golden.

“It is now officially clear I won the constitutional ‘one-person, one-vote’ first choice election on Election Day that has been used in Maine for more than one hundred years,” Poliquin said. “We will proceed with our constitutional concerns about the rank vote algorithm.”

Golden, the state House Assistant Majority Leader, is a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Leeds native, a former committee staffer to GOP Sen. Susan Collins, represents part of Lewiston-Auburn, an old mill town on the Androscoggin River that makes up the major population center of the district.

Democrats held the 2nd District in northern Maine for 20 years before Poliquin flipped the seat when it opened in 2014. He defeated Democrat Emily Cain. Despite heavy spending against him, he defeated Cain by an even bigger margin in 2016 when Trump picked off an electoral vote from the district.

No incumbent has lost the 2nd District since 1916.

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