US Rep. Bruce Poliquin lost his bid for re-election to Congress.
He was defeated by former Marine and Maine legislative leader Jared Golden in an election decided by ranked-choice voting.
Poliquin has refused to concede. He’s challenging the legitimacy of ranked-choice voting, attacking the integrity of the election and has demanded a hand recount of the ballots, which is scheduled to begin Thursday.
He is unlikely to prevail, but he seems willing to take his case all the way to the US Supreme Court if necessary.
Poliquin is within his rights to seek a recount, even though he is unlikely to overcome his margin of defeat of more than 3,500 votes. And he’s perfectly within his rights to challenge a law that he disagrees with.
But being able to do something doesn’t make it right.
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and the election professionals in his office led a transparent and straightforward effort to conduct the ranked-choice portion of the election in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
There was no mystery. No secret process. No algorithms. No black boxes. No artificial intelligence.
Paper ballots were loaded into a machine that tabulated the voting preferences marked on them and the votes were added up. The whole process was nothing more than arithmetic.
Because he lost – and only because he lost – Poliquin is willing to do whatever is necessary to hold onto power, even if it means risking real damage to the faith voters have in our elections.
Poliquin is asking for the results of the election to either be overturned or for a new election to be held. The voting didn’t come out his way, and he’d like a do-over.
The language he has chosen to use – Orwellian, dark, distorting and dangerous – isn’t about making his best argument. It’s about polarizing his supporters, scaring them and planting the seed that somehow they have been cheated by dark forces.
It’s a desperate attempt to hold on to power and it puts our democracy at risk.
Ranked-choice voting is new in Maine, but it’s not mysterious or scary or dangerous. It’s perfectly reasonable to say that there might be better ways to run an election, but it’s not serious to claim there is something nefarious about this method.
US District Court Judge Lance Walker has already rejected Poliquin’s objections to ranked-choice voting once, when he refused to block the final vote tabulation.
“I am no persuaded that the United States Constitution compels the court to interfere with this most sacred expression of democratic will,” Walker wrote, after pointing out that Maine voters had approved of ranked-choice voting and had cast their ballots “in reliance on the RCV system.”
Golden, for his part, has tried to avoid Poliquin’s circus and has gone about the business of new member orientation in DC, preparing to continue his public service as a member of Congress. If he can help it, he should stay as far away from Poliquin’s mud-throwing as he can – the law and voters are on his side.
Unfortunately, Poliquin is far from alone. Republicans in Michigan and Wisconsin, following the lead of their brethren in North Carolina, are working over time in the lame duck session of their own legislatures to take power away from newly elected Democratic governors.
In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, another election loser, is working with a gerrymander-protected GOP Legislature, to take power away for Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers.
In Michigan, Republicans are trying to neuter incoming Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the new Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Joceyln Benson.
Similar things happened in North Carolina when the Republican-controlled Legislature took power away from incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
Example after example, Republicans are ignoring voters and propriety in a naked effort to hold onto power.
Poliquin’s request for a new election should be unceremoniously tossed out of court. And voters, hampered by corrupt election maps in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina, must hold their lawmakers accountable for putting their own desire for power over democratic principles.