- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Election workers began running ballots through high-speed counting machines and uploading results Friday, as Maine voters awaited word of the winners in the nation’s first big test of ranked-choice voting.

Meanwhile, private courier drivers also continued the retrieval of remaining ballots for tabulations.

The state’s election officials said they hope to make available unofficial election results next week.

Ballots were still trickling in Friday, as municipal clerks faced a 5 p.m. deadline for results. Election workers in an Augusta state building ran ballots through machines that can count 300 ballots per minute, and waited for results to upload from memory sticks inserted into four computers.

With ranked-choice voting, voters rank the candidate preferences from first to last on the ballot, and a candidate who collects a majority of the vote wins.

If there is no majority, then losing candidates are eliminated and votes reallocated in additional rounds of tabulations.

These rounds will happen all at once, perhaps in seconds, when election officials insert a memory stick into a single laptop. The voter-approved ranked-choice voting law allows multiple candidates to be eliminated at once if it’s “mathematically impossible” for them to be elected.

Republican businessman Shawn Moody was a majority winner Tuesday. But no one came close to getting an outright majority to claim victory in the seven-candidate Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Ranked-choice voting will come into play in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. It also could be used in the Democratic 2nd Congressional District race, if Rep. Jared Golden comes up short of a majority.

Maine residents also voted Tuesday to keep the system by nullifying a legislative delay. That means ranked-choice voting will be used for federal elections in November in Maine, as well as future primaries.

Ranked-choice voting will not be used in the November gubernatorial and legislative election because of constitutional concerns. Supporters of ranked-choice voting had criticized LePage’s 2010 November election 37.6 percent win in a five-way race.

Proponents of ranked-choice voting said Maine’s election is going smoothly and that they will push for a constitutional amendment opposed by Republicans to allow ranked voting in all elections.

About a dozen city clerks interviewed by The Associated Press said many voters were confused about the wording of a ranked-choice voting referendum, and that more voters than usual requested new referendum and primary ballots after incorrectly filling them out.

By Friday morning, 90 percent of Maine’s precincts reported that more than 261,000 residents voted on the ranked-choice referendum Tuesday. About 254,000 residents voted in the 2010 Democratic and Republican primaries.

The Secretary of State’s office said Friday they did not have voter turnout figures statewide, yet.


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