By: Steve Collins
An effort to seek a new election in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race is an “extraordinary attempt to overturn the results of a fair and free election,” an attorney for U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Golden said in a legal filing late Wednesday.
Peter Brann, the lawyer for the Lewiston Democrat, said the request by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin to overturn the ranked-choice voting results is unlikely to prevail and ought to be rejected.
“Golden won the election fair and square,” Brann said in legal papers filed with the U.S. District Court in Bangor.
“Poliquin’s sour grapes preliminary injunction is too little, too late, and is outweighed by the injury to the thousands of Maine voters who selected Golden over Poliquin and who would be disenfranchised by Poliquin’s attempt to use the courts to overturn the results of the election,” said Brann, a Lewiston attorney.
“Further, the chaos, disruption and violation of fundamental rights that would result from Poliquin’s attempt to rewrite the rules after the election is anathema to the public interest,” he said.
Poliquin’s lawyers have called for the court to declare the incumbent the winner based solely on first-round results of the state’s new voting system, a round narrowly won by the Republican. In the next and final round, Golden prevailed by more than 3,500 votes out of more than 290,000 cast.
Poliquin argues the ranked-choice system is unconstitutional and unfair. He is seeking a recount that will likely take three or four weeks to complete, according to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.
“Under Poliquin’s legal theory, any set of voters whose particular goals in voting were frustrated by any election system, including plurality voting, would be able to invalidate that system of voting on constitutional grounds,” Brann said. “This cannot be, and is not, the law.”
In a brief filed with the court Thursday, the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center said Poliquin’s attorneys didn’t raise any serious legal claims and “instead muster only policy objections to Maine’s use of ranked-choice voting. Mere disagreements about the policy implications of ranked-choice voting are insufficient to show that it is unconstitutional.”
Phyllis Gardiner, a state lawyer handling the case, said in legal papers that none of Poliquin’s arguments have merit.
Brann said voters cast their ballots “based on their understanding that the (ranked-choice voting) system would be used to determine the winner of the election” and the court should not allow Poliquin to “change the rules” after it’s over.
James Monteleone of Portland, the lawyer for independent candidate Tiffany Bond, told the court in a separate filing that “before and on Election Day, no legal challenge of Maine’s (ranked-choice voting) law was pending in any court. No legal challenge was even threatened.”
“Voters reasonably relied on the fact that the (ranked-choice voting) law … were twice affirmed by Maine’s citizen legislators as the state’s chosen manner of election for its congressional representatives,” he said.
Gardiner said that “granting this motion would disenfranchise over 15,000 voters who ranked the candidates on the expectation that their second- or third-choice vote would be counted if their first choice was defeated in round one.”
Gardiner, Poliquin, Golden, Bond and others are slated to appear in Judge Lance Walker’s courtroom Wednesday to make their cases.