November 6 will mark Maine’s first election under its new ranked-choice voting system, and all but one of the four candidates running for the 2nd Congressional District seat said they will accept the results of the election.
The lone holdout is Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin — the two-term incumbent hoping the keep his seat who, during a recent debate, would not rule out a potential legal challenge if he loses next month.
> “I’m going to circle in ‘Bruce Poliquin’ – one and only vote – drop it in the box and go forward,” the incumbent said.
> “I don’t think he answered the question,” said Democratic challenger Jared Golden of Lewiston.
> With three recent polls indicating that Golden and Poliquin are locked in a dead heat in the hard-fought race to represent the sprawling district, it’s becoming ever more likely that neither of the front-runners will collect a majority of the votes cast.
Next month’s midterm election will mark the first time in U.S. history that a contest is decided by ranked-choice voting — in all other elections, whichever candidate receives the plurality of the votes is crowned the winner.
> This time around, though, for the first time, ranked-choice voting might lead to a different outcome. Maine is the first state in the nation to adopt the new voting option, the result of a 2016 citizen referendum that voters backed again during the June 2018 primary.
> In the most likely scenarios, the two independents in the race – Portland lawyer Tiffany Bond and Southwest Harbor educator Will Hoard – will trail the two major party candidates in the first round of counting.
> If that happens – and recent polls put them far behind Poliquin and Golden – then the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who preferred the eliminated candidate then have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots are retabulated. If still no one has more than 50 percent of the votes, then the second-round last-place candidate is eliminated and voters who preferred that candidate then have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates.
> At that point, the front-runner who has the most votes is declared the winner. And there is no guarantee that the victor will be the same person who led after the first round.
If Poliquin comes out ahead in the first round but, failing to reach 50 percent of the votes, falls behind in the second round, he could challenge the results in federal court.
> There are, after all, unresolved legal issues surrounding ranked-choice voting, given that it’s never been tested in federal court.
> During discussions at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court last spring, for example, Justice Donald Alexander questioned whether the system that lets voters rank candidates could violate the “one man, one vote” principle, according to the Associated Press.