As he tries to overturn election, Poliquin insults Mainers

In attempting to remain in Congress, Rep. Bruce Poliquin filed a lawsuit that openly asserts that some Mainers didn’t know what they were were doing in the voting booth.

It’s an approach that’s patronizing and insulting.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin speaks at a news conference on Nov. 13 in Augusta. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, files)

According to the testimony of Poliquin’s expert witness, Prof. James Gimpel, voters who ranked independents Tiffany Bond or Will Hoar, but not Poliquin or Congressman-elect Jared Golden, were confused.

Poliquin claims that Bond/Hoar-only voters thought their candidates would end up among the top two candidates in the instant runoff.

Yet Poliquin’s legal filings are brought by Mainers who voted for Poliquin and no one else. Evidently the Poliquin-only voters were supposedly trying to speak for the purportedly befuddled voters who left Poliquin and Golden off their rankings altogether.

Not only is this insulting but Poliquin’s team hasn’t provided any proof.

As Trump-appointed federal Judge Lance Walker pointed out, “Dr. Gimpel conceded he has not discussed the RCV experience with a single Maine voter.”

Even more, as revealed during the cross-examination, Republicans advertised to find a confused Maine voter who chose Bond or Hoar to sign onto their lawsuit. However, they couldn’t find anyone. Not one person.

This complete and utter lack of evidence has not stopped Poliquin’s latest legal pleadings from continuing to claim that Maine voters were bewildered by the ballot.

Poliquin overlooked the obvious alternative to befuddlement, which is, as Walker put it in his ruling rejecting Poliquin’s claims, that “those voters didn’t want to vote for either Mr. Golden or Mr. Poliquin regardless of whether they believed they would be the run-off candidate.” Instead of this showing confusion, wrote Walker, “it may as likely be evidence of voter clarity and conviction, which is no doubt what lead to the passage of the RCV Act in the first instance.”

But Poliquin’s disregard for voters’ competence and intelligence goes beyond these insults.

One minor noxious aspect is the continuing name-calling from the Poliquin side, shown by incorrectly labeling the system “rank” voting.

Poliquin also decries support for ranked-choice voting from people from away but his lead attorney is a Virginian and his his expert witness, a Maryland professor, acknowledges he had no contact with Maine voters. Moreover, Poliquin’s appeal brief asserts the system benefits major party candidates while ignoring Maine’s history of independent candidates winning or coming in second.

Another absurd claim Poliquin wants Mainers to swallow is that people who just ranked Poliquin didn’t have their votes fully count.

This is false. Poliquin’s own expert witness testified that Poliquin-only voters weren’t disenfranchised.

Every vote ranking Poliquin first was counted in the initial round. Then each was counted in the instant runoff round, joined with votes from people who ranked Bond or Hoar and then Poliquin.

As Walker clearly put it, “Plaintiffs insist that their votes received less weight. However, Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that their votes received less weight.”

Perhaps the most cynical aspect of the case is its views about people’s ability to pick the voting system they want to use for federal elections.

Poliquin asserts that states cannot adopt ranked-choice voting because the federal Constitution requires that congressional elections use plurality. The Constitution says no such thing.

Moreover, for many years, conservatives trumpeted their support for states making their own decisions. When Poliquin ran for office for governor in 2010, the Tea Party movement stood for states’ rights.

As Walker noted with a rhetorical flourish, Poliquin asked to overturn the state’s choice. Said Walker: “Whether RCV is a better method for holding elections is not a question for which the Constitution holds the answer. By design the freedoms and burdens of self-government leave normative questions of policy to be worked out in the public square and answered at the ballot box.”

Poliquin’s answer to Walker’s decision, stated to the 1st  Circuit Court of Appeals, again turned to insult, claiming the judge provided “a superficial level of analysis.”

Whatever happens with this case, it’s not a good idea to sully our polity with petty put-downs. Insulting the electorate is no way to win over voters.


Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.