Why in the world did 2nd Congressional District Rep. Bruce Poliquin give up his fight against ranked-choice voting?
Poliquin, who was carrying the mantel for Mainers who question the new form of voting, surrendered Christmas Eve in a tweet saying it was “in the best interests of my constituents and all Maine citizens to close this confusing and unfair chapter of voting history.”
When I heard the news coming back home to Maine with a large Christmas dinner in my belly, I couldn’t believe my ears. Poliquin a quitter? No way. But it was real, confirmed in the Christmas edition of the Portland Press Herald.
After Poliquin seemed so strong and serious regarding his legal challenge, I have a feeling many Republicans feel betrayed by his surprising capitulation. We weren’t expecting it. We thought his case would end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
By giving in, Poliquin has quite likely also ended any prospects of ever being elected again. He has shown himself for what he is – a disappointment to voters who trusted him. He has cooked his own political goose, appropriately enough, on Christmas Eve.
Mostly, I’m disappointed he didn’t follow through with what he said he would do. He gave up on the 2nd District recount halfway through. He gave up on the election do-over. And he gave up the legal challenge to ranked-choice voting. That’s three strikes.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never a huge fan of Poliquin. But I never disliked him, either. He’s kind of that way, which probably made him a good politician. However, I should have seen the warning signs of his responsibility-dodging ways long ago.
Specifically, I always gave him a pass when he avoided the Maine media. He simply said he didn’t want to get involved in defending Trump every time he stumbled politically. He wanted to stay focused on issues that affect Mainers. That sounded good, and I reasoned that he must be above it all, when the media frenzy raged around him.
Now I see that I was wrong to give Poliquin any credit. Trump has been getting martyred for his conservatism and needs all the defenders he can get from Republican members of Congress. Poliquin failed Trump, just as he’s failed Mainers who thought he would fight ranked-choice voting.
Poliquin is loaded with cash, so that’s not why he’s giving up. He should have stewarded the money he’s been blessed with to continue the recount and legal challenge. Instead, he gave up the recount midway through, and now he’s given up the court fight after lower-court judges rejected his appeals.
Also, Poliquin is wrong, and kind of slimy, to say his giving up is in the best interests of his constituents. It makes me wonder if he’s connected with his base. Yes, many Republicans wish he’d fight to reverse his own electoral loss, but there are a lot of voters out there frustrated that we no longer have a one-person-one-vote system. As I’ve argued in the past, there is real voter disenfranchisement happening in Maine in the wake of this election.
Poliquin won the election by 2,600 voters on Election Day. It was overturned by ranked-choice tabulation, giving Democrat Jared Golden the win by about 3,500 votes. This is the first time in federal election history that ranked-choice voting was used to overturn Election Day results.
I’m not sure, but I believe only Poliquin could have seen a legal challenge through, since he has standing in the court’s eyes. I believed he was acting in good faith – and on behalf of many voters in his district – when he exercised his right and responsibility to petition the judicial system to review what Maine people voted for in 2016. Now we’ll likely never see that judicial review.
Poliquin could have appealed this to the U.S. Supreme Court. He chose not to. And because of that, Maine voters will remember him. If he really was representing his district’s voters, the majority of whom voted against ranked-choice voting in 2016, he would have kept up the fight as long as he had legal breath.
All you Democrats out there should be just as dismayed as Republicans that Poliquin gave up the ghost. This could happen to you. Golden might win on Election Day 2020, but lose to a Republican after ranked-choice voting ballots are counted. How would you feel about that?
It’s just not right. And Mainers’ only hope to defeat this new voting system just walked off into the sunset without finishing the job.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.