With ballots cast in Maine’s June 12 election, the focus turns to counting them — again — and nowhere is that task more complicated than the seven-way Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Under Maine’s new ranked-choice voting system, only one candidate was eliminated from contention: Donna Dion of Biddeford, who came in last in the field with about 1 percent of the vote.
In case you’re confused about what comes next in the process, here’s a refresher:
Municipalities across Maine are at various stages of counting their ballots and by law have three days to report to the secretary of state’s office. If a ranked-choice tally is needed — which is for certain in the Democratic gubernatorial race — responsibility for the tallying will shift to state elections officials.
Ballots to Augusta
The machines that can retabulate the ballots are located in Augusta, so ballots and voting information from across Maine will have to be taken to the capital. Some towns will send the physical paper ballots. Others will send memory sticks that contain information. For security reasons, there is no emailing here so the materials need to be transferred manually. The state has hired General Courier of South Portland to deliver the ballots to the Elkins Building at Elkins Lane in Augusta on Thursday at a cost of $30,875.
Before the counting
Security and guarding against tampered ballots are paramount to maintaining the integrity of the election results. Once the materials arrive, state officials will adhere to strict protocols involving multiple witnesses for opening ballot boxes and memory stick packages and feeding them into a central counting machine.
“There’s a whole public process of unsealing and opening ballot boxes which will take longer than computing the votes,” Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said. “It’ll be like setting up dominoes. Flip one and then they all fall.”
Preparation will take some time, mostly for workers to feed ballots into tallying machines. Dunlap estimates that it will take days and will pause for the weekend. His office has pledged to provide updates on the results periodically during the process, but official certification of the election isn’t required for 20 days.
Recounts could be requested by candidates at both ends of the spectrum — both among those earning the most votes and those with the fewest, who are eliminated in rounds of counting. Under ranked-choice voting, the last-place candidate in each round of counting is eliminated from contention and their second-place votes are folded into other candidates’ totals.
The other races
Based on unofficial results, ranked-choice tallying will also be used for the three-way Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District and possibly in a Republican House District 75 primary in the Turner area, where Joshua Morris leads with 55.1 percent of the vote and three precincts had yet to report as of 1 p.m. Wednesday.
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