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Ranked-choice runoff to decide 2nd District race on Tuesday

Bruce Poliquin, Jared Golden
Robert F. Bukaty
FILE - This panel of file photos show U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2017, left, and state Rep. Jared Golden in 2018, right, in Maine. Poliquin said on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, a recount in his failed re-election bid is needed so every vote is counted by hand under the state's new election system. He formally requested a recount the previous day. Poliquin won the first-round ballot by nearly 2,000 votes, but lost to Golden by about 3,500 votes after votes were reassigned in an additional round under Maine's ranked-choice voting system, following the elimination of the third- and fourth-place candidates.

The official winner of Maine Second Congressional District race is expected to be announced on Tuesday following the second ranked-choice runoff for the seat in four years.

As in 2018, Democrat Jared Golden is expected to emerge as the winner over Republican former Congressman Bruce Poliquin during Tuesday’s ranked-choice tabulation. The Democratic incumbent enters Tuesday's ranked-choice runoff with a more than 10,000-vote advantage over Poliquin after failing to garner more than 50 percent of the vote during the initial tally. But the second-choice preferences of independent Tiffany Bond’s supporters will likely push Golden over the finish line and allow him to serve a third term.

That’s what happened in 2018 when Golden – then a Democratic state lawmaker from Lewiston – surged past Poliquin with the second-choice votes of people who had ranked Bond as their top candidate. Bond finished last Tuesday’s election with 7 percent of the vote compared to 48 percent for Golden and 45 percent for Poliquin. Although still a mathematical possibility, Poliquin’s chances of leapfrogging Golden to win the race appear vanishingly small because many supporters of Bond – who was the left of Golden on many issues – are expected to have listed the Democrat second if they took advantage of the ranking option.

The 2nd District drew tens of millions of dollars in spending as the national parties and outside groups fought for votes in a district that supported President Trump twice but has now sent Golden – a moderate Democrat – to Capitol Hill in three consecutive elections.

Poliquin has yet to concede the race, however. And in a statement posted on Facebook over the weekend, the former two-term congressman reiterated his campaign messaging – on inflation, heating oil prices, the southern border and “harmful defund the police measure.” He called on Golden and other Democrats to “show compassion by starting to fix the mess they created.”

“Give our fellow Mainers hope by not inflicting any further pain on suffering families and small businesses,” Poliquin wrote. “There’s no reason to allow the serious problems they created to get worse before the new GOP House majority helps stop the bleeding on January 3.”

Golden’s anticipated victory would be another win for Democrats but doesn’t appear to be enough to change the trajectory as Republicans close in on a narrow majority in the House.

Preliminary work on the ranked-choice tabulation began on Monday as staff with the Maine Secretary of State’s Office began double-checking that they have paper ballots or electronic memory sticks with scanned ballots for each voting district across the state and verifying the vote totals that were reported on election night. All ballot materials were collected from town offices by law enforcement and transported to Augusta for secure storage prior to the runoff, as required under Maine law.

The process will continue Tuesday before all ballot results are loaded into the state’s computer system. Those vote totals will then be run through the Tuesday’s ranked-choice tabulation software to determine a winner. The tabulation process is open to the public at the Maine Department of Public Safety building located at 45 Commerce Dr., Suite 13 in Augusta. The entire process is also being livestreamed on the secretary of state’s Facebook page.