BANGOR – Only one person took the stand in Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s lawsuit challenging ranked-choice voting, and at the end of the day, the judge said he would have his decision by next week.
The ranked-choice voting expert testified Wednesday in federal court that Maine voters who didn’t select Poliquin or State Rep. Jared Golden – the top vote-getters in the 2nd District – as their second choice actually were “voting blind.”
“Ranked-choice voting expects a lot out of voters,” James Gimpel, a University of Maryland political science professor for the last 27 years, said out in front of the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in Bangor. “It expects them to anticipate who will still be standing when we get to the second round or the third round.”
While on the stand, he said, “this leaves them clueless” while banging his hand in the quiet courtroom.
Gimpel admitted he didn’t interview any Maine voters before drawing his conclusions.
“The main point that the expert witness tried to make today is that Maine voters are uninformed and confused,” said John Brautigam, attorney for the League of Women Voters. “And that person really doesn’t know Maine voters. Maine voters are diligent they go out and vote and participate at a high level.
“Maine voters did their job. They knew the rules and vote accordingly,” he added later.
Poliquin’s lawsuit asks the judge to throw out the ranked-choice election results, name him the winner or order a new election.
One Gouldsboro voter voiced her support for ranked-choice.
“It was not confusing and I found it very liberating,” said Becky O’Keefe, who voted ranked-choice in the June primary and Nov. 6 election. “You went in there knowing you could rank them however you wanted and it’s a personal choice.”
Poliquin’s attorney said the 8,000 or so independent voters who didn’t select Poliquin or golden as their second choice in the ranked-choice instant runoff “got it wrong.”
“They are complicated, weighty issues. And whether or not ranked-choice voting is inherently unconstitutional will be the question the court has to answer,” Lee Goodman, Washington D.C.-based attorney representing Poliquin, said after the hearing ended.
U.S. District Judge Lance Walker said he would have his decision by next week. Depending on his decision, either Poliquin or Golden could appeal, which would lengthen the lawsuit’s time frame.
“sometimes states do not finish their election process in time for the new Congress to begin. And in that case,
The House of Representatives in Washington D.C. has the authority to decide who is going to be seated and we expect that is going to happen in January if this litigation is still going forward,” Brautigam said.