STATEWIDE – By now, most candidates know whether they won or lost but that’s not the case in Maine’s 2nd congressional district.
After months of campaigning, millions of dollars in advertising and nearly 300,000 people casting votes, Maine’s next member of Congress from the 2nd district will be decided by ranked-choice voting.
As of late Monday afternoon, Republican incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democratic challenger Jared Golden each had about 46 percent of the vote. The remaining votes were split between two independent candidates.
The ranked-choice vote counting process calls for all the ballots to be securely shipped to a central location.
“Those ballots are in sealed, tamper-proof containers. And what we’ll do over the next few days is begin the process of opening those containers, sorting the ballots and running them through a high-speed tabulator,” Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Wednesday.
Maine voters approved the use of ranked-choice voting in November of 2016, but it faced legislative challenges and constitutional questions before being used in the June primaries this year. Then it was used to determine the winner of the Democratic nomination for governor because none of the candidates received more than 50 percent of the votes.
“We had everything delivered in two and a half days,” Dunlap said.
Initially, there was some discussion about having the state police transport the ballots to Augusta. But, according to Dunlap, using a privately owned courier could not have worked better.
“And they did it for a very, very affordable price for us. So, it actually wound up being less than a quarter of what it would have cost us to use the state police,” Dunlap said.
According to Dunlap, the experience that the election bureau workers gained from the use of ranked-choice voting in the primary should prove invaluable in determining the winner of the 2nd congressional district seat.
“It’s all logistics. It’s all getting the stuff in. It’s a lot faster than if we had to do it all by hand,” Dunlap said.
Both candidates declined to make themselves available for comment on Wednesday.
Dunlap said the preparation may take a few days but once everything is in place it could only be a matter of minutes before the winner is determined.