© 2021 Maine Public
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Portland ranked-choice council race that ended in tie will be decided by chance

Troy R. Bennett
At left, City Council candidate Brandon Mazer greets voters at the East End Community School in Portland on Election Day. Pictured on the right is Portland City Council at-large candidate Roberto Rodriguez greeting voters outside the Expo on Tuesday Nov. 2, 2021.

Election officials in Portland plan to use a decidedly low-tech method on Thursday —drawing lots — to determine the winner of a City Council seat after a ranked-choice runoff ended in a tie.

There were four candidates on the ballot for an at-large seat on the Portland City Council. But none of the four received more than 50% of the vote in Tuesday’s election, automatically triggering a ranked-choice runoff that considers voters’ second- and third-choice candidates.

Yet when a computer crunched the ranked-choice results on Wednesday, candidates Roberto Rodriguez and Brandon Mazer each ended up with 8,529 votes after the two lower-placing candidates were eliminated.

Portland's rules for ranked-choice elections states that ties must be settled "in public by lot." But the rules do not specify whether that should be a coin flip, drawing straws or another method.

City officials hinted at a random drawing involving slips of paper bearing the candidates’ names but had yet to settle on a method because they were still discussing the process with Mazer and Rodriguez on Wednesday afternoon.

Portland City Clerk Katherine Jones is expected to conduct the public drawing in the plaza in front of City Hall at 10 a.m. on Thursday. The losing candidate could also request a hand recount of the full election results.

Portland began using ranked-choice voting in city elections a decade ago. In 2018, voters statewide began using the ranked-choice process for federal races with more than two candidates as well as legislative and gubernatorial primaries.