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Poliquin Says He's Requesting A Recount In 2nd District Race In Response To Complaints

Steve Mistler
Maine Public
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin lays out his reasons for requesting a recount in Maine's 2nd District race at a news conference Tuesday at the Portland Jetport.

Maine Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin says his request for a recount in the 2nd District race he lost to Democrat Jared Golden is a response to thousands of complaints and concerns expressed to his campaign.Speaking at the Portland International Jetport Tuesday, Poliquin said voters contacted his office saying they were confused by the ranked-choice voting election.

"This is about making sure that every Mainer that goes to the polls knows that he is - or she - casting his or her vote legally and making sure that vote is counted accurately," he said.

But Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat, says his office has not received the flood of complaints that Poliquin is describing.

"Well, I think if thousands of people are truly registering fear and confusion with Congressman Poliquin's office, I'd say they're going to the wrong office because we're not hearing that," Dunlap says.

Dunlap says he has heard from voters who didn't understand why ranked-choice voting was not used in the gubernatorial or legislative races.

Poliquin repeatedly described the runoff process in which Golden prevailed by more than 3,000 votes as a "black-box algorithm." In a statement released Monday, Poliquin compared the runoff software to artificial intelligence and said it’s not transparent.

Dunlap pushed back against that claim, saying that all of the data from the election is posted on the state's website and available for inspection.

Golden's campaign says Poliquin's request for a recount is dragging out the transition process and could hurt constituents seeking assistance.  

Poliquin might have to pay for the recount - Golden's margin is more than the 1 percent threshold that requires Poliquin to pay if the recount doesn't reverse the outcome.  The process is expected to take about a month.

Poliquin requested the recount just before Monday's 5 p.m. deadline.

Poliquin, who has refused to concede defeat to Golden, has asserted that he won on Election Night because he held a lead before the runoff.

State officials say the recount will require gathering scanned ballots that were not collected during the runoff. Election officials and attorneys from both campaigns will then review ballots at a counting facility in Augusta.

Golden, in a statement, said Poliquin was within his rights to ask for a recount, but that he had little chance of prevailing.

Golden’s campaign manager Jon Breed noted that Poliquin asked a federal judge to stop the count two weeks ago, but now he wants the state to count again.

“Bruce Poliquin must face facts: he lost and Jared Golden will be seated on Jan. 3,” Breed said.

Poliquin also plans to continue his federal lawsuit challenging the ranked-choice voting law.

U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker recently denied Poliquin's request to halt the ranked-choice runoff through a restraining order, in part by reasoning that the two-term Republican was unlikely to prevail with his constitutional challenge. Walker has scheduled oral arguments for Dec. 5 at U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Updated Tuesday 12:08 p.m.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.