Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin is asking a federal appeals court to block Maine officials from certifying Democrat Jared Golden as the winner of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race.

In a brief filed Tuesday, Poliquin’s lawyers asked the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston to grant an “emergency injunction” preventing certification as they appeal a lower-court’s rejection of a constitutional complaint against ranked-choice voting. While Poliquin received the most votes on Election Day, he failed to win a majority and ended up losing to Golden by more than 3,500 votes after a ranked-choice runoff.

“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.

Golden’s office called Poliquin’s efforts “senseless.”

“Bruce Poliquin has the right to fully exhaust his options in a legal system that has rejected him at every turn,” said Aisha Woodward, Golden’s chief of staff. “But while Poliquin continues this senseless effort, congressman-elect Jared Golden is putting the people of the 2nd District first by preparing to take office on January 3rd. He has rolled up his sleeves and is ready to get to work on behalf of the people who elected him.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said he had already signed off on the election results and sent them to Gov. Paul LePage.

“We have done our work, we certified the election,” Dunlap said Tuesday. “All I can tell you is we’ve done our job and have certified the election. (Poliquin) is asking the court to intervene.”

LePage’s office said the governor cannot legally certify the election results while the case is pending in the courts. State law declares that the governor will issue an election certificate “within a reasonable time after an election,” but adds that the “governor may not issue a certificate while the election is contested before the court.”

THE GOVERNOR’S CERTIFICATION

It is unclear whether LePage – a Poliquin supporter and vocal opponent of ranked-choice voting – would certify the election before leaving office if the court declines to issue an emergency injunction. But Democratic Gov.-elect Janet Mills takes office Jan. 2, one day before Golden and the other U.S. House members are scheduled to take their oaths of office in Washington.

“The governor-elect would gladly certify his election, just as she would for any duly elected official,” said Mills spokesman Scott Ogden.

Poliquin’s appeal is the latest twist in his now six-week campaign to overturn the use of ranked-choice voting in the 2nd District race.

Last Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker rejected the constitutional challenges raised by Poliquin and three other 2nd District voters. Walker, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Trump this year, ruled that there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that precludes states from requiring that congressional races be decided by a majority of votes rather than a plurality.

“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.

Poliquin’s attorneys have asked the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule by Friday on the request to block certification. In their brief filed with the appellate court Tuesday, the attorneys said Walker “sidestepped the explicit questions presented, often casting the questions at a more superficial level of analysis.”

ISSUES RAISED BY APPEAL

Poliquin’s appeal is asking the appellate court to consider three questions:

• Do voters have the right to know the final contenders in a race when casting ballots?

• Does allowing voters to “shift their votes between candidates” via ranked-choice preferences violate the “due process” guarantee of the U.S. Constitution?

• Can states “set aside” the results of an election won by a plurality of votes in order to hold a ranked-choice runoff?

Unless the court grants Poliquin’s request for an “emergency injunction,” it appears that Golden will take his seat alongside the 434 other newly elected – or re-elected – House members on Jan. 3.

The U.S. Constitution grants both the House and the Senate the authority to decide the “elections, returns and qualifications” of their own members. Federal law would allow Poliquin to file a formal complaint contesting Golden taking his seat within 30 days of the certification of election results. That would trigger a hearing and review by the Committee on House Administration.

Also, another House member could verbally object to Golden being sworn in Jan. 3. In that instance, the full House would then vote on whether to seat Golden or refer the issue to the Committee on House Administration. But with Democrats holding the majority of seats on the House floor and in the committee, it is highly likely that Golden would prevail in either scenario.

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

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