FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2018, file photo, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, speaks at a news conference in Augusta, Maine. Poliquin, who has disputed his loss in the first ranked-choice congressional race in U.S. history is dropping his request for a recount. Poliquin challenged the system in federal court, and a judge ruled against him on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. He also requested the recount, which has been taking place in Augusta. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, files)

Republican drops recount request in Maine congressional race

December 14, 2018 - 4:02 pm

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Republican incumbent dropped his request for a recount Friday in the first congressional race in U.S. history held under a system by which voters rank candidates in order of preference.

The announcement by Rep. Bruce Poliquin came a day after a federal judge tossed out his challenge of the candidate-ranking system.

Poliquin lost his re-election bid to Democratic State Rep. Jared Golden in November. He requested the recount, which had been taking place in Augusta.

But on Friday, Poliquin tweeted that he believes it's important to end the recount, in part because of the coming holidays. He also said he's still evaluating the possibility of appealing the judge's decision on the constitutionality of the candidate-ranking system.

Poliquin said there are still "unanswered questions" on the use of the new method, which is often called ranked-choice voting .

"Maine people continue to write and approach me with grave concerns over rank voting," he tweeted. "I understand their concerns, and the need for our elections to be transparent and fair."

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap confirmed on Friday that the recount is over, and "for all practical purposes this election is concluded" with its cessation. He added that Poliquin has a right to appeal Judge Lance Walker's federal court decision, but "the District Court's ruling makes it legally clear that it is not unconstitutional to lose an election."

But Poliquin wasn't conceding defeat. The statement insisted that he had "the largest number of votes on Election Day."

He was referring to his first-round lead of more than 2,000 votes over Golden, but that lead did not hold up after an additional round of vote tabulation.

Golden emerged as the victor with a slim majority after two independents were eliminated and the votes were reallocated under the ranking system.

Golden has called on Poliquin to help with a smooth transition for the district.

Maine voters approved the new voting method in 2016, and it was used for the first time in state primaries in June and in congressional races on Election Day. But it cannot be used in state general elections because of concerns it runs afoul of the Maine Constitution.

Poliquin's challenge in federal court was that it violated the U.S. Constitution.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage, an opponent of ranked-choice voting, called the voting system "repugnant" and unconstitutional.

Democratic Gov.-elect Janet Mills, meanwhile, is a supporter. She said she's open to amending the state Constitution to let the system be used in all elections in Maine.

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