As state election officials begin gathering ballots for a ranked-choice voting count in Maine's 2nd Congressional District race, Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin's campaign released a statement asserting that he won the first round. Poliquin's statement increases speculation that the incumbent will challenge the constitutionality of Maine's ranked-choice voting law if he loses the election to Democrat Jared Golden in the runoff tabulation.
According to results compiled by the Associated Press as of Thursday afternoon, Poliquin led Golden by more than 1,600 votes, with more votes to be counted in roughly 30 towns. But it's becoming mathematically impossible for either Poliquin or Golden to accumulate enough votes to climb exceed the 50 percent threshold required to win under Maine's ranked-choice voting law.
That, says Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, is why his office began the process of transporting all the ballots to Augusta for a ranked-choice runoff that will tabulate how voters ranked the four candidates in the race, a count that will ultimately determine the winner.
"If it were to happen that we had a majority result, where one of the candidates went over 50 percent, that would stop this process," Dunlap said. "We don't see that happening."
Dunlap isn't sure how long it will take to gather all the ballots. In the June primary, it took election officials about eight days to conduct the runoff.
But even if the tabulation goes quickly, the outcome could be challenged in court. Three candidates, Golden and independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar, have said they'll accept the results, while Poliquin has sidestepped the question.
Meanwhile, political observers are crunching the numbers and speculating about the outcome.
Some believe second- and third-place votes for Bond and Hoar could vault Golden to victory, but that will largely depend on how many of voters who selected either of the independents also ranked the other candidates.
Originally published Nov. 8, 2018 at 4:55 p.m. ET.