BANGOR – As uncertainty continues to swirl around Maine’s controversial ranked-choice congressional race, some question how the state will seat a new representative come January.
State Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s lawsuit and the fact that ranked-choice election results will not be certified until the legal action is finalized, could mean that Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat may remain vacant.
Poliquin won the plurality vote but lost his bid for reelection to State Rep. Jared Golden in the ranked-choice runoff.
The incumbent is challenging the legality of ranked choice. Wednesday, a federal judge hears arguments in that case.
“Each state follows these steps and in Maine, the Secretary of State tabulates and sends them to the governor and the governor issues these certificates,” said Mark Brewer, a University of Maine professor of political science. “Alright, but if the governor doesn’t issue these certificates, does it ultimately make any difference? I think for practical purposes and constitutional purposes, I think the answer is no.”
Brewer says the House has the authority to seat Golden, even if the governor doesn’t certify the results and send them to Congress.
“They are waiting for the presentation of the valid results of the election,” said David Haus, Husson University associate professor of history.
“The 2nd District of Maine would go technically unrepresented as far as voting is concerned in the House until we have a representative that can be seated,” Haus said.
Poliquin’s lawsuit asks the judge to throw out the election results, name him the winner or order a new election.
“Those possibilities are all extremely long shots,” said Brewer.
“The only way in which I could possibly see Poliquin prevailing on this is if the judge issues a ruling favorable to him before the swearing-in date,” the UMaine professor added later.
The country’s 116th congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3.
“I can’t imagine the Democratic majority in the House is going to do anything other than seat the candidate who has been declared the winner of the election by the Secretary of State’s office,” Brewer said.
“It’s going to be interesting how this plays out,” Haus said.