Jared Golden Wins U.S. House Seat After RCV Tally

By Lura Jackson

 

In a contentious finish, Democrat Jared Golden has been named the winner of Maine’s second U.S. House of Representatives seat, defeating incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin after the final tally of the newly-implemented Ranked Choice Voting [RCV] system.

If RCV had not been established earlier this year, Poliquin would have been declared the winner. Based on first-choice votes only, Poliquin had just over 46 percent while Golden had just under 46 percent. However, since no candidate had a majority of the votes, the RCV system was employed to determine which one had the greatest support. Under that system, second-choice votes from those who had selected the Independent candidates in the race as their first-choice were tallied for both Poliquin and Golden. Put another way, those who ranked either Tiffany Bond or William Hoar as their first-choice and then picked Poliquin or Golden as their second-choice had their second-choice votes count as first-choices for those candidates.

Once the votes were tabulated, Golden emerged as the winner with 50.5 percent of the votes compared to Poliquin’s 49.5 percent.

Poliquin responded to the proceedings of the RCV system by litigation; he attempted to stop the tabulation altogether and made the case that he should be declared the winner. U.S. District Judge Lance Walker denied the request to stop the counting process. “As it stands, the citizens of Maine have rejected the policy arguments plaintiffs advance against RCV. Maine voters cast their ballots in reliance on the RCV system,” Judge Walker wrote of his decision. “... I am not persuaded that the United States Constitution compels the Court to interfere with this most sacred expression of democratic will by enjoining the ballot-counting process and declaring Representative Poliquin the victor.”

 

Walker did not stop Poliquin’s underlying lawsuit against RCV from continuing, however. “In denying plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order, I do not discount the sincerity of their complaints regarding the RCV system,” Walker wrote. “The remedy in a democracy, when no constitutional infirmity appears likely, is to exercise the protected rights of speech and association granted by the First Amendment to persuade one’s fellow citizens of the correctness of one’s position and to petition the political branch to change the law.”

At this point, Poliquin can allow the litigation to continue in the U.S. District Court, attempt to bypass it and go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, or approach the now Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and ask them to appoint him in Golden’s stead.

A brief recap of Ranked Choice Voting in Maine

 

Ranked Choice Voting was initially put forth by its supporters in 2015 with the goal of electing representatives that have the greatest majority of support. Mainers voted in favor of it in November 2016 by a small margin of 52 to 48 percent. Debate over the constitutionality of the law delayed its implementation. In 2017, the legislature passed a bill that would effectively prevent RCV from being implemented in either 2018 or 2020, and that would then automatically repeal it in 2021 unless the state constitution was amended. Supporters of RCV immediately began gathering signatures to amass a People’s Veto that would overturn the legislature’s attempt to repeal the law. The Maine Supreme Court weighed in that RCV was the law for the June primaries – at which time the public once again voted to keep RCV in place, this time for the November elections. During that election, 54 percent of voters opted in favor of the system.