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Ranked-choice runoff in Maine's 2nd District delayed after memory stick glitch

In this Nov. 12, 2018 file photo, ballot boxes are brought into for a ranked choice voting tabulation in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
In this Nov. 12, 2018 file photo, ballot boxes are brought into for a ranked choice voting tabulation in Augusta, Maine.

A technical glitch has delayed the ranked-choice runoff to decide the winner in Maine's 2nd Congressional District.

The Maine secretary of state's office was on track to determine whether Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Jared Golden or former Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin officially won Maine's 2nd District race on Tuesday evening. But elections staff discovered a last-minute problem with the memory sticks that contained digital images of ballots from Bangor and Hampden. As a result, law enforcement will have to retrieve the more than 16,000 paper ballots from those two towns, which will then be rescanned in Augusta on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows says for some reason, a technical issue prevented the system from reading those images. Rescanning the ballots is expected to take much of the day on Wednesday, with a runoff potentially happening in the late afternoon or evening.

"So Maine state law requires that we count all of the ballots at the same time. We don't do partial counts. We don't value some towns over other towns. Some states do it bit by bit. Maine says every vote counts, every vote will be counted. We do it all at the same time," Bellows says.

Golden leads Poliquin by nearly 12,000 votes and is poised to win a third term in Congress. But the three-person race went to a ranked-choice runoff because Golden didn't garner more than 50% of the vote on the first tally.

Based on the initial results, Golden received 153,051 votes, or 48.4%, while Poliquin received 141,191 votes, or 44.7%. Independent Tiffany Bond received 21,581 votes, or 6.8%. And it is Bond’s supporters who will ultimately decide the winner with their second-choice preference.

Bond also finished third — behind Golden and Poliquin — in the four-person race in 2018. Golden was able to surge past Poliquin in the ranked-choice tabulation because so many of Bond’s supporters ranked him second on their ballots.

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.