By Jim Ellis
Nov. 15, 2018 — Believing that Maine’s relatively new Ranked Choice Voting system will turn his current plurality re-election victory into a loss, Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) and three others are filing a federal lawsuit asking a judge to halt the instant run-off process before post-election counting begins.
With just a scant number of absentee votes remaining, Rep. Poliquin leads state Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) by an unofficial 1,910 votes and it is clear that he will finish the final count with a lead. The congressman’s vote total, however, is well below 50 percent meaning the instant run-off will occur.
With two leftward Independent candidates on the ballot attracting just under 24,000 votes, Golden is more likely to gain a substantial majority in the second- or third-ranked choice round, which would likely allow him to pass Poliquin and exceed the 50 percent mark. Thus, we are likely to see a situation where the candidate who placed first in the final general election count will not be awarded the office.
Pine Tree State voters adopted the controversial practice in what most observers believe was a reaction to Gov. Paul LePage (R) winning two statewide elections with less than majority support. In his first electoral contest (2010), LePage, then the mayor of Waterville, was elected governor in a three-way race with only 38 percent of the vote. Four years later, he was re-elected with 48 percent in another three-way campaign.
Independents are often credible candidates in Maine political campaigns and sometimes win those races as in the case of Sen. Angus King (I), for example.