The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling is the latest blow to Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s battle against ranked-choice voting.

A panel of federal judges Friday rejected Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s request for an emergency injunction to block Maine from certifying Jared Golden as the winner of the state’s 2nd District race.

In a one-sentence order, three judges on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that the request doesn’t show Poliquin “to have a strong likelihood of success on the merits.”

While Poliquin’s broader appeal of a lower court ruling is still alive, the rejection is the latest blow against his legal challenge of the ranked-choice voting process that ended with Golden, a Democrat from Lewiston, unseating the two-term Republican incumbent. It also clears the way for Golden – a 37-year-old former state lawmaker and Marine Corps veteran – to take the oath of office with the rest of the U.S. House on Jan. 3.

Josh Tardy, one of the attorneys for Poliquin, said the team was still trying to find out what Friday’s order means for the underlying appeal, but added that it does not appear the court is inclined to fast-track hearings on the case.

“The congressman and his legal team are disappointed in today’s decision and continue to believe ranked-choice voting disenfranchises Maine voters,” Tardy said. “I think Congressman Poliquin has done everything he could to protect the rights of the 2nd District voters. At the same time, he respects the judicial process and we’ll look at our options.”

Golden and his attorneys did not comment Friday on the appellate court’s ruling.

Poliquin received the most votes on Election Day but failed to win a majority required to avoid a ranked-choice runoff against Golden and two independents in the race, Tiffany Bond and William Hoar. Golden defeated Poliquin by more than 3,500 votes following the runoff, but the Republican continues to challenge the constitutionality of the ranked-choice system Maine voters have approved twice at the ballot box.

A federal judge in Bangor rejected those constitutional concerns in a strongly worded ruling on Dec. 13. So on Tuesday, Poliquin’s lawyers asked the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to grant an “emergency injunction” preventing Golden’s certification as they appeal U.S. District Judge Lance Walker’s ruling.

“In the absence of injunctive relief maintaining the status quo, the state may certify the election results before this court can consider plaintiffs’ claims, thereby permanently depriving them of the ability to vindicate their constitutional rights to a constitutionally compliant election and election results,” the attorneys wrote in their initial filing.

An attorney for the state countered that Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap already had certified Golden as the winner and sent that paperwork to the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, albeit without Gov. Paul LePage’s signature.

“Under the U.S. Constitution, it is now up to the United States House of Representatives to determine, when it convenes on January 3, 2019, whether to seat Jared Golden, who is the undisputed winner of the ranked-choice voting tabulation under the RCV Act and thus the Representative-elect for Maine’s Second Congressional District,” Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner wrote on Dunlap’s behalf.

LePage did not sign Golden’s election certificate because of a line in Maine law saying that a “governor may not issue a certificate while the election is contested before the court.” The two sides even disagreed on how to interpret that language, with Dunlap arguing the line refers only to state courts’ jurisdiction in cases of disputed or challenged ballots in a recount.

Poliquin’s team responded by accusing Dunlap of trying to “usurp the governor’s legal authority” by sending the election certificate to Washington, D.C., without LePage’s signature.

“The Secretary of State … has self-certified the election results in violation of state law vesting that authority in the Governor in a transparent bid to convince this Court to cede its jurisdiction over constitutional claims to the U.S. House of Representatives,” Poliquin’s attorneys wrote. “This Court should not permit such unlawful gamesmanship of the solemn judicial process by which citizens obtain review of constitutional claims.”

The appellate court apparently found the plaintiffs’ arguments lacking based on Friday’s order refusing to block Golden’s certification as the election victor.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH


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