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Politics

Nation's First Ranked-Choice Voting Count Is Underway

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Steve Mistler
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Maine Public

Updated 2 p.m. Friday

The nation's first statewide ranked-choice voting count is underway in Augusta.

At stake is the winner of the seven-way Democratic gubernatorial primary, which did not produce a majority winner after Tuesday's initial count.

Since then, ballots from over 500 cities and towns have been bundled in locked boxes or secure memory sticks and transported to a central counting facility in Augusta.

The state police typically escort ballots during recounts. This time, ballots were delivered by private couriers, which the Secretary of State hired after the LePage Administration would not allow the Maine State Police to escort them to the capital. The move illustrates the political divide over the ranked-choice law that voters approved in 2016, and on Tuesday, voted to keep for future elections.

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Credit Steve Mistler / Maine Public
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Maine Public

On Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn met the couriers as staff wheeled the locked boxes into a counting facility in Augusta. Flynn took inventory of the boxes, which are expected to continue flowing into the facility throughout the evening. Many of the ballots are in boxes, but others electronically scanned on thumb drives and then downloaded into special ranked-choice voting software.

In ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If a candidate achieves a majority of first-place votes after the initial count, they win, which was the case for Shawn Moody, who secured Republican nomination on Election night. Close scrutiny of the counting process is expected because the statewide ranked-choice count is the first of its kind.

But it's now a process of elimination in the Democratic primary, and that's where voters' rankings will determine the winner.

This story was originally published June 16, 2018 at 8:10 a.m. ET.