Did U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s loathing of ranked-choice voting contribute to his defeat?

That’s the feeling of a former Poliquin opponent and the leader of a national organization that supports ranked-choice voting. They say Poliquin’s pre-election statements to supporters calling the method confusing — perhaps causing some to stay home — and his apparent lack of effort to gather second- and third-place votes from backers of his two independent challengers hurt his ultimate vote tally.

Tiffany Bond

One of the two independents in last year’s congressional race, attorney Tiffany Bond, said Tuesday the Republican lawmaker could have won if he’d reached out to independents instead of shunning them.

And Rob Richie, president of the Maryland-based nonprofit FairVote that helped push the new method of casting ballots, added, “I hope that the congressman will reflect on what seemed to be true: He didn’t run a campaign designed to get over 50 percent.”

Richie said Poliquin “was publicly dismissive” of the independents — Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar — and lost his chance to win over the nearly one in 10 voters who picked them first on Election Day.

In a district “with more independent-minded swing voters than most,” Richie said, “you need to do a better job seeking to represent more than half of them.”

Poliquin said the No. 1 reason why many GOP voters opted to stay home on Election Day last year was “rank vote confusion.”

“Not a day goes by without a fellow Mainer stopping me in the grocery store or at Dunkin’ Donuts to complain about the unfair and confusing process, and angry about his or her sacred vote not counting,” he said.

Rob Richie, president of FairVote Photo provided

Poliquin called it “a glaring instance of voter suppression, unintended or not.”

Bond called the notion that votes were suppressed “absolutely stupid. I met no one who found it confusing.”

Richie said the fact that more people voted in the ranked-choice U.S. Senate race last year than in the conventional-vote gubernatorial contest indicates the new system “drew more people into the contests than scared them off.”

An Election Day poll conducted by the Bangor Daily news, Colby College and FairVote found that 74% of Maine voters found ranking ballots “very easy” or “somewhat easy.”

But Democrats were 50% more likely than Republicans to say the new system was easy, the poll found.

It also didn’t poll non-voters who may have stayed away from the polls because they heard it would be difficult.

Richie said he’s sure the next GOP nominee in the district will try to use ranked-choice to broaden the final count “and not just try to blame the messenger.”

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