In a four-way race for Maine’s Second Congressional District, ranked choice voting may determine the outcome of one of the most competitive and expensive House races in the nation.
Recent polls show Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin neck-and-neck with Democratic challenger Jared Golden. If neither candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, Maine’s new system of voting will kick in. Voters who selected Independent Tiffany Bond or Independent Will Hoar as their first choice would have their second choice counted instead – until either Poliquin or Golden got above 50 percent.
“Honestly, it’s made the campaign more fun,” said Bond.
She said ranked-choice voting encourages independents to enter races and try creative methods of the campaign.
In Bond's case, she has refused campaign contributions, and instead directed donors to charities and small businesses. She has not put out campaign signs or taken out political ads.
“Let’s make politics a force for good,” Bond said.
In a race that has brought in millions of dollars in campaign spending, with endless attack ads on television, Bond wants to put energy into exploring the issues.
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“We get no gross ads, we help the economy, and we help small businesses,” she said. “I hope it catches on. Isn’t that a better way to do it?”
Golden spent Friday campaigning in Oxford County, where he said voters are most concerned with healthcare.
“[Poliquin] voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said Golden. “None of us [in the race] agree with Poliquin’s vote to repeal the ACA.”
Golden acknowledges the race is tight but feels confident he can come out on top—whether it’s in the initial round of voting, or in the run-offs with ranked choice voting calculated.
Poliquin was not available for an interview Friday. When asked how ranked choice voting affects his re-election campaign, his office provided the following statement:
“My focus remains on continuing to help the Maine economy grow and provide more good-paying jobs, protecting and preserving Medicare, and working to lower the cost of healthcare. I’ve been meeting with, talking with, and hearing from hundreds of constituents every day. They agree we need to keep our economy growing, lower healthcare costs, and protect our Constitutional Rights. I’m the only candidate with the job creation experience to do that who has a proven record of protecting our Constitutional Rights.”
If instant run-offs need to be tabulated, it could take several days to know the winner.