Ranked Choice Voting litmus test in Maine could pave way for other states

Rep. Bruce Poliquin was the first choice of many voters in his bid for re-election in Maine’s second house district, with more than 2,000 more votes than his closest opponent. But unfortunately for him, he was not the voters’ second choice. “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” lamented Poliquin. Crazy, he says, because his … Continue reading “Ranked Choice Voting litmus test in Maine could pave way for other states”

Rep. Bruce Poliquin was the first choice of many voters in his bid for re-election in Maine’s second house district, with more than 2,000 more votes than his closest opponent.

But unfortunately for him, he was not the voters’ second choice. “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” lamented Poliquin. Crazy, he says, because his Democratic opponent, Jared Golden, has been declared the winner.

Poliquin's loss is the first test of Maine's new election tabulation process called Ranked Choice Voting, under which voters can prioritize a crowded field of candidates – from favorite to least favorite.

If no candidate wins a majority, as happened with Poliquin, they eliminate the last place finisher and take his or her second-choice picks and distribute them among the remaining candidates. That process is then repeated until someone gets over 50 percent of the vote.

Some call it instant runoff, and it is gaining popularity across the country.

Adam Friedman is pushing a ranked choice voting proposal in Massachusetts. “With Ranked Choice Voting, you actually get to vote honestly, rather than strategically,” Friedman explained.

In crowded fields, Friedman went on, voters often won’t vote for the candidate they like best because they’re afraid that the candidate they like least may be elected.

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When asked if Poliquin’s loss was fair, Friedman was certain. “It actually is fair,” he told Fox News, “because Ranked Choice Voting ensures that the winner has the majority of the district’s support, not merely one faction or one tribe.”

Poliquin doesn’t see it that way. “For 200 years in the state of Maine, we've had one person have one vote,” he said. “It's not complicated, it's not controversial.”

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He says that offering voters a second choice may even be unconstitutional, so he challenged the results in federal court.

Earlier this month, his case was presented before U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker during a hearing in which he made the argument against the ranked-choice voting law, saying that it violates the U.S. Constitution because its unique runoff system produces a “faux majority” winner of elections and disenfranchises voters.

The legal challenge is likely the first step in Poliquin’s attempts to reverse the Second Congressional District race won by his opponent and is part of a broader effort to invalidate a voting method that some Republicans view as an existential threat.

On Thursday, Walker rejected the lawsuit, dismissing Poliquin's arguments that ranked balloting gave some voters more of a voice than others or proved too confusing for the average voter. Even when votes cast for trailing candidates were reassigned, Walker said, all votes "remained and were counted."

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"The point is that 'one person, one vote' does not stand in opposition to ranked balloting, so long as all electors are treated equally at the ballot," Walker said.

Supporters of the runoff system say that Poliquin’s attorneys are using an array of sometimes contradictory claims against the law and that their failure could ultimately bolster ranked-choice voting against what has so far been a withering legal and political campaign.

The case is also being watched closely by national advocates for ranked-choice voting who hope to implement the system in other states.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Douglas Kennedy currently serves as a correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1996 and is based in New York.

Massachusetts man who confessed to murder granted new trial after 33 years

A man who Massachusetts prosecutors said confessed to killing a young mother 33 years ago has won a new trial under the state’s post-conviction DNA testing law.

Arthur Davis, 53, was one of the first inmates in the state to apply for a new trial under the law which was enacted in 2012, his attorney David Siegel told Fox News.

“From the beginning, he has maintained his innocence and has wanted to try and prove that ever since,” said Siegel, who teaches at the New England Law School of Law in Boston and worked with the New England Innocence Project on Davis' appeal, along with pro-bono attorney Christopher Schultz.

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Siegel said he believes that about 12 to 15 inmates have applied for post-conviction DNA testing, including his client.

In 1986, Davis was convicted of killing Patricia Richard in Lowell on Feb. 10. 1985. He is currently serving a prison sentence of life without parole.

Middlesex County Judge Maynard Kirpalan granted Davis’ request for a new trial in a Nov. 23 ruling.

Davis has tried to overturn his conviction four previous times without success.

Police found Richard’s nude body in an alcove at the Lowell City Hall. She died after being severely beaten to death. She was attacked apparently as she was walking to an all-night diner after going drinking with friends, the Boston Globe reported.

Her violent death came nine days after she gave birth to her first child, a baby girl, according to the Lowell Sun. Richard and Davis were strangers.

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Lowell police Capt. John Cullen takes murder suspect Arthur Davis into custody in the February 1985 slaying of Patricia Richard.  (Lowell Sun)

The evidence against Davis included blood found on several items in his home, a cigarette butt, a confession to police and statements to a co-worker and a friend.

The cigarette butt was found next to Richard’s body. The friend testified that Davis told him “I killed her for a red and white polka dot dress.”

But the DNA testing did not find Richard’s DNA profile on any of the blood samples tested, Kirpalan said. The DNA tests that were conducted weren’t available at the time of the murder.

DNA was extracted from the cigarette butt. It belonged to a man, but not Davis, the judge said.

“This court concludes that in light of its findings concerning the new DNA evidence, and the likely role the challenged physical evidence played in the jury’s deliberations, there is ‘a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice’ and a new trial is warranted,” Kirpalan said.

Siegel said the jury heard Davis testify that his confession to police was coerced.

“The statements to the police are inconsistent with each other and were the product of nine or ten hours of interrogation of a 19-year-old,” Siegel said. “They were inconsistent with each other and the physical evidence."

Middlesex County prosecutors are weighing whether to appeal the ruling or retry Davis.

Warren may be regretting DNA analysis on Native American heritage, report says

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is reportedly starting to express concerns about releasing the results of a DNA test from October examining her possible Native American ancestry.

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said she believes it’s important to be transparent and didn’t appear to regret releasing the results when talking to reporters Thursday.

“So, I have put it all out, in public, I've put out 10 years of tax returns, my hiring records and DNA tests all out there on the internet for anybody to see,” she said.

However, behind the scenes, Warren is reportedly expressing some concern she might have put her relationship with the Native American community in jeopardy, the New York Times reported. Outside advisers told the newspaper Warren will have to plan to repair any damage and may have to issue an apology statement all while confronting the issue on the 2020 campaign trail.

Warren was criticized for conducting the tests and was accused of succumbing to attacks from President Trump – who has repeatedly called her "Pocahontas" in his campaign-style rallies and on social media.

The results reportedly revealed “strong evidence” that Warren had a Native American ancestor dating back six to 10 generations, according to the Boston Globe.

According to the analysis, if Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother were Native American, Warren would be considered 1/64 Native American. Should Warren’s ancestor date back 10 generations, the senator would be only 1/1,024 Native American.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., may have to answer to critics if she runs for president in 2020. (Reuters)

“To put that in perspective, Warren might even be less Native American than the average European American,” Republican National Committee Deputy Communications Director Mike Reed told Fox News in October, while saying this would "not give you the right to claim minority status."

"Warren might even be less Native American than the average European American."

— Mike Reed, deputy communications director, Republican National Committee

The Cherokee Nation also slammed Warren in a statement

“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., said. “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.”

“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.”

— Chuck Hoskin Jr., secretary of state, Cherokee Nation

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe editorial board suggested Warren has now become too “divisive” to run for president in 2020 – a complete turnaround from the 2016 call for her to run.

“While Warren is an effective and impactful senator with an important voice nationally, she has become a divisive figure,” the editorial said. “A unifying voice is what the country needs now after the polarizing politics of Donald Trump.”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

No jail time for Mass. man who married, divorced African women in green-card scheme: report

A Massachusetts man who admitted to entering six sham marriages as part of an immigration scheme was spared a prison sentence this week, authorities said.

Peter Hicks, 58, was sentenced to two years probation after asking a U.S. District Court judge not to sentence him to 18 years in prison, as the government had requested, the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester reported.

“I just want to be an upstanding person so my son can look up to me,” Hicks said in court.

“I just want to be an upstanding person so my son can look up to me.”

— Defendant Peter Hicks, 58, sentenced to probation in marriage scheme

Hicks pleaded guilty to a count of marriage fraud in September because the statute of limitations had run out on the other five.

Prosecutors said from 2003 to 2013, Hicks entered into sham marriages with sub-Saharan African women. The scheme was orchestrated to obtain green cards for the women. Hicks said he was paid by others to marry the women.

He divorced at least three of his wives – two in an eight-day period in 2011, authorities said. At one point, he was still married to one woman when he married another, a government statement said.

Hicks had admitted to three sham marriages under questioning in 2009 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

He alluded to financial struggles when speaking of his actions.

“Sometimes I took the easy way out,” Hicks said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David G. Tobin told the court in September, he didn’t know why the government didn’t pursue charges back then. He said Hicks had other crimes on his record, and coupled with the marriage fraud, warranted a tougher sentence.

"(Probation) is basically an invitation (to others), ‘Go out and do this; you can make some money doing this,’ ” Tobin said.

"(Probation) is basically an invitation (to others), ‘Go out and do this; you can make some money doing this.’ ”

— Assistant U.S. Attorney David G. Tobin

The judge disagreed, saying Hicks prior criminal record was from decades ago and that probation was a legitimate punishment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Boston Globe Editorial Board: Elizabeth Warren should think carefully about run against Trump

The Boston Globe’s editorial board — which had called on Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run for president in 2016 – wrote in a piece Thursday suggesting she's now become too "divisive," and would be better off staying in the Senate instead of running against President Trump in 2020.

“While Warren is an effective and impactful senator with an important voice nationally, she has become a divisive figure,” the editors wrote. “A unifying voice is what the country needs now after the polarizing politics of Donald Trump.”

It's a far cry from 2015, when the board wrote: “Democrats would be making a big mistake if they let Hillary Clinton coast to the presidential nomination without real opposition, and, as a national leader, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren can make sure that doesn’t happen. While Warren has repeatedly vowed that she won’t run for president herself, she ought to reconsider.”

“Running for president is hard. Deciding not to run? That can be even harder,” Thursday's piece began, before noting an announcement from former Democratic Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick that he would not be launching a 2020 run.

While commending Patrick’s tenure in office and saying that he “would have been a formidable candidate,” the publication urged other lawmakers in the state “reportedly considering presidential runs” to “think carefully before jumping in, too.”

The outlet noted multiple lawmakers who have been rumored to be contemplating a White House bid. They also recalled how in 2015, the “editorial page urged Warren to run, in part because of the lack of serious competition against Hillary Clinton.”

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Clinton ultimately became the Democratic candidate and lost to Trump in the general election.

But there isn’t as much a need for more Democratic candidates in the race this time around, the outlet said.

“With or without the Massachusetts candidates, it appears the party will have a wide-open, racially and ideologically diverse field,” they said while listing off several possible contenders.

Warren didn’t seize the open window of opportunity in the 2016 election and now “there’s reason to be skeptical” of her possible success as a candidate, The Globe said, while noting some poll figures in the state.

“Governor Baker garnered more votes than her in a state that is supposed to be a Democratic haven,” The Globe wrote. “Meanwhile, a September poll indicated that Massachusetts voters were more enthusiastic about Patrick making a White House bid than Warren.”

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Warren has not been shy about her interest in running against President Trump, at one point saying that after the midterm elections, she would “take a hard look at running for president.”

While acknowledging the difficulty for politicians to decide against launching a campaign after previously suggesting they would take it under consideration, The Globe noted Patrick's ability to do so.

“There’s no shame in testing the waters and deciding to stay on the beach,” they concluded.

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.

Massachusetts church sparks backlash – again – over controversial Nativity scene

At first glance, the Nativity scene outside a small parish in eastern Massachusetts appears similar to those in churches across the country.

However, a closer look at the depiction of the birth of Christ at Saint Susanna’s Parish in Dedham reveals a not-so-subtle commentary on the immigration situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The scene at the manger has baby Jesus and the three wise men enclosed in cages and the words “Peace on Earth” posed as a question.

“Sixty-five million refugees worldwide seeking a better way of life and we were wondering what that might look like 2000 years ago if this family encountered the same dynamics that are taking place in our country right now,” Pastor Steve Josoma told Boston25.

This is the second year in a row the parish has displayed a controversial Nativity scene. Last year, the display also included the names of the towns where mass shootings occurred, along with the number of people who died in each.

Josoma said the scenes are meant to get people talking and he doesn't expect it to come down.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Beavers casually stroll into Cumberland Farms store, caught on video

A strange visit this week at a gas station in Massachusetts gave employees there something to chew on.

Surveillance video at a Cumberland Farms store in Fitchburg captured two beavers sauntering in through its front doors and then roaming around its aisles.

One of the beavers – apparently not finding what it was looking for – manages to walk back out through the sliding glass doors on its own.

An employee was seen taking pictures of the other beaver on their cell phone before shooing the animal outside.

Massachusetts man recalls losing leg in wood chipper accident

A Massachusetts man who lost his leg in a wood chipper recalled his near-death experience Wednesday and a doctor said it could’ve been worse if it wasn’t for his co-workers.

James Blaney, 32, was working with a wood chipper in Yarmouth on Nov. 16 when his foot got caught on a branch, according to Boston 25 News. He told the news station he was ready to die, but wasn’t going to go “freaking out.”

“(The branch) essentially became a zip tie on my leg,” Blaney said. “I was like, if I was going to die I'm not going to die freaking out. I just want to die. I just want to enjoy the last few moments of my life and not think about what just happened.”

Luckily, two of Blaney’s co-workers were nearby and helped get Blaney out of a potentially deadly situation. His co-workers put the wood chipper in reverse and applied a tourniquet on his leg.

“He is the luckiest unlucky guy there is because he was in a horrible accident, was able to get in here safely and friends who knew what to do,” Larry Novak, Blaney’s surgeon, told Boston 25 News.

Blaney has vowed that the loss of his leg wasn’t going to deter him.

“I have a good idea, the silver lining is there. I don't know exactly what it is, but I have an idea it's shaping right now,” he said.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

Boston Marathon bomber offered to help prosecutors for his life: report

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wanted to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for life in prison but prosecutors turned down the idea, court documents unsealed Wednesday reportedly said.

The government “consistently rejected Tsarnaev's conditional offers" and a deal never materialized, according to the court documents obtained by NBC News. Tsarnaev had "offered to provide certain kinds of cooperation and assistance, in the course of plea negotiations," according to the documents.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015. He and his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police, were responsible for the attacks. Prosecutors said in the filing that Tsarnaev’s attorneys wanted to include statements that he didn’t want to kill any innocents.

The filing also explained why FBI agents rushed to interview Tsarnaev while he lay injured and unable to speak in his hospital bed after being caught.

“Of the two remote-control detonators used during the Marathon bombings, only one was recovered, suggesting that the Tsarnaevs (or someone else) had retained the other one for possible use with additional bombs,” the document reads.

At the time, Tsarnaev had been shot in the head, face, throat and jaw. He was answering questions by writing into a notebook.

Three people died after bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013. An MIT police officer was later killed in the manhunt for the brothers.

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.

Boston Marathon bomber offered to help prosecutors for his life: report

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wanted to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for life in prison but prosecutors turned down the idea, court documents unsealed Wednesday reportedly said.

The government “consistently rejected Tsarnaev's conditional offers" and a deal never materialized, according to the court documents obtained by NBC News. Tsarnaev had "offered to provide certain kinds of cooperation and assistance, in the course of plea negotiations," according to the documents.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015. He and his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police, were responsible for the attacks. Prosecutors said in the filing that Tsarnaev’s attorneys wanted to include statements that he didn’t want to kill any innocents.

The filing also explained why FBI agents rushed to interview Tsarnaev while he lay injured and unable to speak in his hospital bed after being caught.

“Of the two remote-control detonators used during the Marathon bombings, only one was recovered, suggesting that the Tsarnaevs (or someone else) had retained the other one for possible use with additional bombs,” the document reads.

At the time, Tsarnaev had been shot in the head, face, throat and jaw. He was answering questions by writing into a notebook.

Three people died after bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013. An MIT police officer was later killed in the manhunt for the brothers.

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.