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Congressman to appeal ruling on Maine’s new voting system

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2018, file photo, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, speaks at a news conference in Augusta, Maine. Poliquin, who has disputed his loss in the first ranked-choice congressional race in U.S. history is dropping his request for a recount. Poliquin challenged the system in federal court, and a judge ruled against him on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. He also requested the recount, which has been taking place in Augusta. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, files)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin on Monday announced he’s continuing his effort to have Maine’s new election system used for the first time in a congressional race declared unconstitutional.

A federal judge last week rejected Poliquin’s request to nullify the outcome of the election and either declare him the winner or order another election. His notice of appeal was filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

Poliquin, who lost his re-election bid to Democrat Jared Golden, tweeted Monday evening that a formal appeal will be filed with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, dragging on the longshot legal process.

Poliquin claims he should be the winner because he had the most first-place votes on Election Day. But Golden won the race in an extra round of voting in which two trailing independents were eliminated and their votes were reallocated.

“Rank voting came to Maine due to a largely out-of-state-funded push to change our election system that has worked well for one hundred years,” he said in a statement. “There is nothing more fundamental than our one-person, one vote constitutional right,” he added.

Under ranked-choice voting, all candidates are ranked on the ballot, and a candidate who collects a majority of first-place is the winner. If there’s no majority winner, then the last-place candidates are eliminated, and their second-choice votes are reassigned to the remaining field. The process is sometimes referred to as an instant runoff.

Supporters say the system, adopted by Maine voters in 2016, eliminates the impact of spoilers and ensures a majority winner. Critics say the system is confusing.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker, who was appointed by Republican President Donald Trump, wrote that states are given great leeway in how they conduct elections. Critics can question the wisdom of ranked-choice voting, Walker wrote, but such criticism “falls short of constitutional impropriety.”

Poliquin has abandoned his recount and Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said last week that “for all practical purposes this election is concluded.” He added that Poliquin has a right to appeal but “the District Court’s ruling makes it legally clear that it is not unconstitutional to lose an election.”

For now, the ranked-choice voting system is used only in federal races and in statewide primary elections in Maine. It cannot be used in the governor’s race or legislative races because of concerns it runs afoul of the Maine Constitution.

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