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Federal judge to decide winner in Maine 2nd District race

FILE - This panel of file photos show U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2017, left, and state Rep. Jared Golden in 2018, right, in Maine. (AP Photos/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

PORTLAND (WGME) -- A federal judge will decide if Jared Golden or Bruce Poliquin is rightfully the next congressman for Maine's Second Congressional District.

Golden won under the new ranked choice system, but Poliquin wants those results thrown out.

Attorneys for Congressman Poloquin say 8,000 voters were disenfranchised, but defense attorneys say those 8,000 voters simply didn't select 2nd or 3rd choices on the ranked choice voting ballot, and they say despite their choice not to vote, that ranked choice voting is constitutional.

Poliquin's attorney decried ranked choice voting as confusing and a less preferable system versus a separate run-off election. Attorney Lee Goodman says voters lack the ability to cast runoff votes without knowing who the likely front runners will be or how to make their vote most effective.

"We believe that voters have a right to be presented a ballot with two choices on the ballot in a runoff election," Goodman said.

Goodman's argument is that ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional because voters are disenfranchised if they don't select 2nd and 3rd choices and that ranked choice, unlike a later runoff, denies voters another bite at the apple to pick a likely winner.

Attorneys for Jared Golden say that is not a question of constitutionality.

"The ballot only asks you to pick your choice,” attorney Peter Brann said. “It doesn't say you have to pick the winner of the race or the person you think is going to win. You pick the people you want to vote for."

Judge Walker says he will issue a ruling next week. In the meantime, Congressman Poloquin's recount he demanded from the state elections office starts Thursday. It's expected to last nearly 4 weeks.

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