AUGUSTA — After ranked-choice voting helped Democrats defeat two-term Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in November, it’s perhaps no surprise that Republican leaders are considering the possibility of wiping away the new voting method.

“We must go after this bad precedent,” former Gov. Paul LePage wrote recently to members of the Republican state committee.

The two Republican leaders in the state Senate and the state House urged Republican officials to pick former state Sen. Garrett Mason of Lisbon as the next party chair in part because he can raise the money necessary to “directly assist with campaigns, such as the repeal of ranked choice voting.”

It isn’t clear, though, how Republican critics of Maine’s new voting system for primaries and federal elections might proceed in any effort to reverse the change to ranked-choice voting, which received the blessing of Maine voters who were asked at the polls on two occasions whether they supported it.

The state Democratic Party chair, Phil Bartlett, said Friday that “despite Maine Republicans’ attempts to sabotage ranked-choice voting in the Legislature and sow fear to the public, it’s clear to Mainers that RCV was a resounding success — both in the primary and the general election.”

“Republican fear-mongering did not deter Mainers from embracing a system that allows for the candidate with the most support to win,” Bartlett said.

“Democrats are committed to this system because it works and it’s the system Mainers voted for,” the Democratic Party chief said. “It’s time for Republicans to get on board.”

But a week after he dropped his court case challenging the ranked-choice voting outcome, Poliquin said in a Facebook post that he agreed with LePage “that the promises of the out-of-state rank vote funders were not true.”

“Rank voting did not result in a true majority as promised,” Poliquin said, and “it did not keep big money out of politics. In fact, rank vote backers spent millions attacking during the actual election, and it did not result in a more civil election.”

Before he threw in the towel on Christmas Eve on his bid to retain his seat in Congress, Poliquin said it would be “completely irresponsible” for him to give up the fight to kill ranked-choice voting.

Poliquin’s request to have a federal court overturn the new voting system went nowhere after a Bangor judge recently appointed by President Donald Trump issued a 30-page decision that strongly endorsed the right of the state to use the new system. He swatted away every constitutional argument against it in a ruling that the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston let stand.

Poliquin sought redress in court after winning the first-round of voting in November but coming up 3,500 votes short in the second round once state officials redistributed votes from the two trailing candidates, independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar. Those voters preferred Democrat Jared Golden of Lewiston by such a wide margin that he sailed past Poliquin to victory in the final count.

In his letter to Republican leaders, LePage blamed Poliquin’s defeat on “money and rank choice voting.”

He said they “doomed us and will continue unless we Republicans come to the plate in force and petition a repeal of ranked-choice voting.”

The former two-term governor said that “rank choice voting will always defeat the candidate with integrity.”

LePage went on to “pledge to work to raise money to defeat this measure” that he insisted “stole our heritage of one person-one vote.”

“In order to succeed we cannot sit by and allow the Ds  and out-of-state money to rob us of our way of life,” LePage said.

To get rid of ranked-choice voting, Republicans have several possible paths, none of them particularly promising.

One way would be to convince the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Gov. Janet Mills to pass a law eliminating the new voting method.

Another would be to try again in court and hope that Judge Lance Walker’s opinion would not hold up to scrutiny in other courts.

The only other obvious alternative would be to try to force another public referendum on ranked-choice voting and hope for a different outcome despite voters backing the system in both 2016 and 2018.

Amy Fried, a University of Maine political science professor, said making an effort to overturn ranked-choice voting would be costly and “seems quixotic” given that voters have already twice approved the system.

Rob Richie, the head of the nonprofit Fair Vote in Maryland that supports ranked-choice voting, said Republicans “will come to like RCV more as well as they deal with more elections with it.”

He said that may happen as soon as a potential primary to determine who will take up the challenge when Golden seeks reelection in 2020.

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