AUGUSTA (NEWS CENTER Maine)-- One month after Election Day, the recount of ballots began in Maine’s controversial Second District Congressional race. GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin won the initial plurality of votes on election night but lost the final ranked choice vote to Jared Golden by roughly 3,500 votes. It was the first time ranked-choice voting was used to decide a federal election. Poliquin claims Maine’s RCV law violates the U.S. Constitution and has asked the federal court to declare him the winner or order a new election. Ranked choice voting has been approved by Maine voters in two referendum elections, though Second District voters did not support it.
Poliquin requested the recount, which will mean a hand count of all ballots in the race, roughly 300,000 ballots. The count will also use ranked choice, which will complicate the hand counting process.
Volunteers from both parties do the actual counting in teams of two, one from each side, going through the ballots from each town or city. Lawyers for the campaigns are keeping watch. Republican Josh Tardy said they want to make sure the count is accurate.
“We know ranked-choice voting is controversial,” Tardy said, “ that people have concerns about it and this will be an important check to see how the ranked-choice tabulation done by a computer fares out when actual votes are counted by real humans.
We know ranked-choice voting is controversial, that people have concerns about it and this will be an important check to see how the ranked-choice tabulation done by a computer fares out when actual votes are counted by real humans.”
Democratic attorney Ben Grant, working for the Golden campaign, said they don’t expect a change in the final result.
“I think it’s important that people trust that elections are fair and conducted above board. So if a losing candidate wants to have a recount I’m happy to go forward. I don’t think the result is going to change.”
The recount is expected to run for the next two weeks, then take all or most of Christmas wee off, then resume. They are starting with 100,000 ballots already in Augusta from the first ranked-choice count and some other recounts. As those ballots are counted, State Police will collect paper ballots from remaining town and cities in CD2 and keep the count gaunt. It’s possible the recount may still be in process by January when the new Congress will be sworn in.