Rep. Bruce Poliquin on Friday ended the hand recount of ballots cast in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race, but might still appeal a federal judge’s ruling on his constitutional challenge of ranked-choice voting.

In a statement, Poliquin pointed out that he captured the most votes on Election Day – a fact that has never been in question – but said he is ending the recount. With more than 50 percent of the recount complete, Poliquin had yet to pick up a substantial number of votes in the ranked-choice runoff that would allow him to surpass Democratic Rep.-elect Jared Golden.

Poliquin, a two-term Republican, trails Golden by more than 3,500 votes following the nation’s first use of ranked-choice voting to decide a congressional election.

“Although we continue to evaluate the legal process and the need for an appeal on the constitutionality of rank voting, due to the impending holidays, I believe it is important to end the recount process,” Poliquin said. “There continue to be unanswered questions on the use of rank voting, including ballots which voters state appeared in the wrong congressional district. Maine people continue to write and approach me with grave concerns over rank voting. I understand their concerns and the need for our elections to be transparent and fair.”

Poliquin’s legal team has 30 days to appeal a federal court decision out of Bangor on Thursday that rejected their constitutional challenges of ranked-choice voting. U.S. District Judge Lance Walker also refused to order a new election, as Poliquin’s team had requested.

DUNLAP SET TO CERTIFY RESULTS

Poliquin’s decision appears to clear the way for Golden – a 37-year-old Marine Corps veteran and former state lawmaker from Lewiston – to take office with the rest of the U.S. House members on Jan. 3. A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said he could issue a “certificate of election” to Golden on Friday afternoon or early next week.

Golden said Friday that he was “humbled by the support of the majority of voters in this election” and was working on the transition.

“At this time, I remain focused on preparations to take office on January 3rd, and on building the strongest team possible to serve the people of Maine over the next two years,” said Golden, who served as assistant majority leader in the Maine House during the last legislative session.

“I also want to thank Bruce Poliquin for his four years of service in Congress, and for running a spirited campaign,” Golden said in the statement. “I now ask that his staff be allowed to begin the process of working with my incoming team to transition outstanding casework, and other important matters, for the good of the constituents that we were elected to serve.”

OVER HALF OF BALLOTS RECOUNTED

Kristen Muszynski, Dunlap’s spokeswoman, said work on the recount halted at around 11 a.m. Friday after her office received a call from Poliquin’s campaign. By that point, the recount teams from both campaigns as well as Dunlap’s staff had gone through 165,000 ballots from 320 towns, which represents more than 50 percent of the nearly 300,000 ballots cast on Election Day.

Poliquin will be required to reimburse the state for the costs of the recount because it did not change the outcome, per state law. Muszynski said her office did not yet have a cost estimate.

Dunlap said that although Poliquin still has the option to appeal the federal court case, “for all practical purposes this election is concluded with the cessation of the recount, and the District Court’s ruling makes it legally clear that it is not unconstitutional to lose an election.”

“The fact that the total votes cast for the two party candidates did not substantially change speaks well for the process that was utilized, and for the hard work by our municipal election officials in implementing ranked-choice voting,” Dunlap said. “In the end, this election was not decided by technology or election laws – it was decided by the voters.”

CONSTITUTIONALITY UPHELD

On Thursday, Walker rejected Poliquin’s claims that the ranked-choice process – which has been approved twice at the ballot box by Maine voters – violated the equal protection, due process and First Amendment clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Walker, who was appointed to the federal bench this year by President Trump, dismissed Poliquin’s central arguments that congressional elections should be decided by “a plurality” of votes not the majority required by ranked-choice voting.

“Maine’s RCV Act reflects the view of a majority of the voting public in Maine that their interests may be better represented by the candidate who achieves the greatest support among those who cast votes, than by the candidate who is first ‘past the post’ in a plurality election dominated by two major parties,” Walker wrote in his 30-page ruling. “By requiring the concurrence of more than a plurality of voters, the People of Maine have not exceeded the authority vested in them under Article I, sections 2 and 4, (of the U.S. Constitution) and they have not violated any regulation issued by Congress under section 4.”

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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