ELLSWORTH — Oral arguments in the lawsuit filed by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) challenging the results of the November election and the constitutionality of the ranked choice voting process began Wednesday morning at U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Poliquin, who led Democratic challenger Jared Golden on election night by roughly 2,000 votes but without a 50 percent majority, filed the lawsuit once ranked choice voting tabulation began at the Maine Secretary of State’s office.
Judge Lance Walker denied Poliquin’s request for a temporary restraining order on the tabulation process. Golden was declared the victor, but Poliquin has continued to question the legality of ranked choice voting and sought to overturn the results in court.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the ranked choice voting process unconstitutional, to declare an injunction prohibiting ranked choice voting from being used to declare a winner in the November election or to order a new runoff election in order “’to remedy [the] broad-gauged unfairness’ that the implementation of the RCV Act injected into the Nov. 6 general election.”
Poliquin’s lawyer, Lee Goodman, has argued that if ballots cast for independent candidates Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar — that did not rank any other candidates — had been included in the tabulation process, Golden would only have received 49.1 percent of the vote rather than the 50 percent majority the process is designed to achieve.
The hearing began one day before a recount of all ballots cast — also requested by the Poliquin campaign — begins at the Secretary of State’s Office in Augusta.
“About 1/3 of the CD2 ballots are already in hand: The ballots from all hand-count municipalities in Congressional District 2 have been retained at the secure tabulation site from the initial tabulation effort,” said Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office in a press release. “Additionally, all ballots from Hancock County are on hand due to a county judge of probate recount. Maine State Police will collect additional ballots as directed by the recount supervisor.”
The Secretary of State’s Office also noted that because the margin of votes is more than 1,000, a $5,000 deposit is required and the full cost of the recount will be charged to Poliquin if the results of the election do not change in the process.
The Secretary of State’s Office has said that the recount process could take up to a month.