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Maine begins process of determining congressman via new way

November 8, 2018
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Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, seeking re-election in the 2nd Congressional District, greets supporters at his election night party, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Bangor, Maine. (Gabor Degre/The Bangor Daily News via AP)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Couriers rolled through Maine on Thursday to collect ballot materials as the state determines the winner of a U.S. House seat via its new voting method for the first time.

Mainers ranked their choices in Congressional ballots this week in case no candidate cleared 50 percent of the popular vote. The office of the secretary of state said that appears to be the case in the contest between Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democratic challenger Jared Golden.

Tabulations under the new method will likely begin Friday, the office of Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said. The calculations will be open to the public.

“How long is this going to take? We really aren’t too sure. This is a somewhat different animal,” Dunlap said during a radio appearance on WGAN-AM radio Thursday.

Voters’ second choices will come into play to try to determine a clear winner of the hotly contested race. The announcement of a winner is expected next week.

Dunlap added the state used the ranked choice system during June’s primary elections, but it’s dealing with more ballots this time around.

The system lets voters rank candidates on the ballot with provisions for candidate eliminations and additional tabulations. It’s also used in about a dozen municipalities around the country.

The use of the new system, which has some opponents, to determine a congressman has given rise to speculation of a lawsuit, but no one has committed to filing one yet. Dunlap said on WGAN that he’s not concerned about the possibility of a lawsuit.

Poliquin was leading in the race by about 900 votes with a little less than 90 percent collected, Dunlap said. Poliquin’s camp touted a victory by plurality Thursday, and it expects the margin to grow by more than double based on calls to the remaining precincts. A Golden spokesman said the Democrat’s campaign is awaiting the last of the results.

The final totals of the first round of voting must still be fully tabulated, said Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office. However, the state decided to begin the ranked choice process now because it is time consuming, she said.

The ranked process would be invalidated if Poliquin or Golden were to clear 50 percent of the popular vote in the first round, but that looks unlikely right now.

“We’re going to count every vote, and we’ll have an accurate result,” Muszynski said.

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