James Morgan is a sophomore honors student majoring in political science and journalism at the University of Arkansas. James was born and raised in Clarksville, Arkansas and has participated in several political groups in his hometown. After graduating, James wishes to pursue a career in political science coverage or journalism.
In Maine’s 2nd congressional district, ranked choice voting could determine the result of a tightly contested race between Incumbent Bruce Poliquin (R) and challenger Jared Golden (D). The system of ranked choice allows voters to choose their second and third choice of candidate along with their primary pick. If none of the candidates receive 50 percent of the first-choice vote, second-choice votes are counted for the voters who voted for the candidates that have the least number of votes. This method is essentially a condensed version of the runoff system, requiring an absolute majority without necessitating another election. Ranked choice could prove relevant in this race, as most of the current polls have both main candidates polling below 50 percent of the vote. According to the Sun Journal, Tiffany Bond, one of the independent candidates, has repeatedly said that voters can safely pick her first and Golden second, saying that her voters will likely be unhappy with Poliquin. This seems to be backed up by the New York Times’ latest poll, which says the Republican incumbent has a 45 percent unfavorable rating in the district.
Maine’s 2nd district comprises almost 80 percent of the state, including a large portion of the state’s rural area. Neither the state’s largest city, Portland, nor the state capital, Augusta, are included in the 2nd district. The district voted for former President Obama by a substantial margin in both 2008 and 2012, but gave President Trump his only electoral vote in New England when he won the district by 10 points. The congressional seat was held by Democrat Mike Michaud until he decided to run for governor in 2014. Republican Bruce Poliquin won the open seat when he defeated Democratic opponent, Emily Cain, and retained it in 2016, defeating Cain again. Poliquin ran uncontested in the primary this year, while his Democratic opponent, Jared Golden, won his primary with 46 percent of the vote.
In the two debates that have been held, the main topics have been health care and the economy, but Poliquin repeatedly tried to tie Golden to Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. The other candidates steered the conversation back to issues in Maine and the country, and even discussed ranked choice voting. Poliquin stated that he would vote only for himself, while every other candidate said they would utilize the format and would pick themselves first and Poliquin last, urging others to do so themselves.
Most recent polling seems to be keeping this race dead even, with the aforementioned New York Times poll showing Golden and Poliquin knotted at 41 percent of the vote with 15 percent of the voters still undecided. The Pan Atlantic Research Omnibus Poll, conducted at the beginning of October, shows Poliquin with a slim lead at 37 percent to 36.5 percent; however this poll shows that very few of the voters for Will Hoar and Tiffany Bond know who they will be voting for with their second rank choice voter, which makes predicting the outcome very difficult. Along with other prominent national election predictors FiveThirtyEight considers the district a toss-up, but gives Golden a 58.6 percent chance to win as of October 21st.
It is very likely that neither candidate will receive 50 percent of the vote on November 6th. The race will probably be among the last decided in the country as all the second and third choice votes are counted. Challenger Jared Golden will have to surmount the Republican wall that Donald Trump built in the district in 2016 to defeat the incumbent, but Bruce Poliquin could lose his seat due to his high unfavorability and ranked choice’s inaugural debut in American federal elections.