Rep. Bruce Poliquin is requesting a new election in the 2nd Congressional District race.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, left, seeks a preliminary injunction to halt the certification of the ranked-choice voting election results in which the Republican lost to Jared Golden, D-Lewiston.

Poliquin’s request, made in a motion filed late Tuesday in federal court in Bangor, is the latest move in his ongoing legal battle to challenge the results of the election, in which Democrat Jared Golden defeated Poliquin in the nation’s first-ever congressional election using ranked-choice voting.

Tuesday’s action amends a lawsuit filed this month challenging the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting.

The Republican representative and his attorneys had initially sought a temporary restraining order to halt the ranked-choice tabulation. That was denied by federal Judge Lance Walker, an appointee of President Trump. In that decision, Walker said he was not persuaded to temporarily stop the ranked-choice count while the legal case plays out. He cited Maine voters’ repeated support for ranked-choice voting in his decision.

“As it stands, the citizens of Maine have rejected the policy arguments plaintiffs advance against RCV,” Walker wrote. “Maine voters cast their ballots in reliance on the RCV system. For the reasons indicated above, 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.”

Poliquin and three other plaintiffs argue in the lawsuit that the ranked-choice process violates the U.S. Constitution because the Constitution “sets a plurality vote as the qualification for election” to Congress. They also argue the process prevents voters from casting an informed vote because it is unclear who the final contenders would be in a ranked-choice tabulation.

However, the U.S. Constitution does not mention plurality or ranked-choice voting, and several constitutional scholars have said the suit is unlikely to succeed.

‘BROAD-GAUGED UNFAIRNESS’

The suit still seeks a preliminary injunction, which would halt certification of the election results, but now is asking the judge for a new election if an injunction is not granted. Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage, citing state law, also has said he will not certify the election while the lawsuit plays out.

“In the alternative to the preliminary and permanent injunction requested above, (we request) an order that a new election be held for U.S. Representative from Maine’s Second Congressional District ‘to remedy (the) broad-gauged unfairness’ that implementation of the RCV Act injected into the November 6 general election,” the new amended complaint reads.

A spokesman for Golden did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Poliquin’s new filing.

Also this week, Poliquin formally requested a recount, a process that could take a month, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has said. Poliquin led after the first round of voting on Election Day, but after the second-choice candidates of independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar were factored in, Golden emerged with a lead of about 3,500 votes.

The ranked-choice process allows voters to cast ballots for their favorite candidate and rank other candidates in order of preference. Those rankings only come into play if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote on the first count of ballots. The idea behind ranked-choice voting is to elect individuals with a majority vote rather than a plurality (the most votes).

If no one wins a majority after the first tally, election officials eliminate the last-place finisher from contention and redistribute that candidate’s votes based on each voter’s second-choice ranking. This process continues – with non-viable candidates being eliminated from the bottom up and their votes reallocated – until a candidate breaks the threshold of 50 percent.

CLAIMS OF ‘ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE’

Poliquin has increasingly attempted to paint the election as confusing and chaotic, claiming the process was not transparent and that a secretive algorithm and “black box” were used to determine Golden was the majority winner.

“This is a very big deal to make sure every vote in Maine is accurately counted,” Poliquin said Tuesday in a news conference at the Portland airport. “And I think it’s time that we have real ballots counted by real people – real ballots counted by real people – instead of this black box that computes who wins and who loses.” Members of Poliquin’s campaign staff also have claimed that Dunlap, a Democrat, deployed “artificial intelligence” to determine a winner.

A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office said it could not comment on the pending lawsuit.

But advocates for ranked-choice voting, which voters approved first in November 2016 and again in June 2017 when they overturned a legislative repeal of the first-in-the-nation law, said there was little that was secretive about the technology used to determine which candidate received the most total votes.

“Maine’s Secretary of State did not use ‘artificial intelligence’ to tabulate the election results, he used a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, which was invented in 1979,” Kyle Bailey, the ranked-choice voting campaign manager, said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

“While Mr. Poliquin publicly works through the five stages of grief over his election loss, the real story is that the implementation of Maine’s Ranked Choice Voting law was smooth, transparent and in accordance with the will of the Maine voters,” Bailey said. “Mr. Poliquin has a legal right to request a recount, but his extreme rhetoric that questions the integrity of Maine’s free and fair elections is reckless and irresponsible.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: thisdog

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