Maine GOP congressman ends legal challenge to Democrat's victory

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, announced Monday that he was ending his legal challenge to the election of his Democratic opponent under the state's new ranked-choice voting system.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Poliquin wrote that "despite winning the largest number of votes on Election Day, I believe it's in the best interest of my constituents and all Maine citizens to close this confusing and unfair chapter of voting history by ending any further legal proceedings."

"I’ve done everything possible to protect the one-person, one-vote Constitutional right of my fellow Mainers," Poliquin added. "For over 100 years in our State’s history, the candidate who received the most votes won. Elections here have always been straightforward and non-controversial."

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Poliquin's defeat by Jared Golden means that all 12 representatives for the six New England states are Democrats. Democrats will have at least 235 seats in the new House of Representatives next year with the outcome of a contested race in North Carolina still pending.

Poliquin also said that he wished Golden the best during the coming term. Golden said in a statement that he looked forward to getting to work and thanked Poliquin for his service to the state and "the spirited campaign he ran in 2018."

Poliquin received approximately 2,000 more first-place votes than Golden on Election Day, only for Golden to surge ahead once second preferences from ballots supporting two other independent candidates were re-allocated.  The two-term incumbent argued that the system was unconstitutional and requested that the courts either declare him the winner or order another election be held.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker said critics could question the wisdom of ranked-choice voting, but such criticism "falls short of constitutional impropriety." Poliquin also lost a last-ditch bid to challenge Golden's scheduled Jan. 3 swearing-in by asking the courts to halt the certification of election results.

RANKED CHOICE VOTING LITMUS TEST IN MAINE COULD PAVE WAY FOR OTHER STATES

Maine became the first state to allow voters to rank candidates on the ballots in a congressional race.

Maine's top state court last year warned that ranked-choice voting conflicts with the state's constitution, which says the winners of state-level races are whoever gets the most votes, or a "plurality." So Maine uses ranked-choice voting only in federal elections and state primary races, but not for general elections for governor or the Legislature.

Democratic Gov.-elect Janet Mills has vowed to seek to amend the state constitution so the system can be used in all elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.