AUGUSTA (NEWS CENTER Maine) — For all those still anxious to find out who won Tuesday’s top Democratic primaries, the second step of the vote count has begun. Private couriers started picking up ballots Thursday from town and city clerks and bringing them to Augusta where officials will tabulate.
Those couriers work for a company hired by the secretary of state, partly because he didn’t have the funding to pay overtime for state police to do it. Paper ballots and voting machine memory sticks are being picked up from all the roughly 500 towns and cities in the state.
Town clerks, like Brunswick’s Fran Smith, have everything packed, secure and waiting for the couriers. Smith said there isn’t a schedule for pickups, but that all the clerks would be ready. Communities that use machines to count are sending the digital "memory sticks" with the results of Tuesday’s voting. Towns that hand count paper ballots — about 235 of them — are sending all their ballots to Augusta.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Thursday that they hope to have most of the ballots in Augusta by Friday night, but could not guarantee it. He said the department staff would begin scanning the paper ballots and downloading the memory sticks into the computer Friday morning. However, he would not promise when the actual count will be done.
"We won’t know until we get into this," Secretary Dunlap said. "If I start saying we will run tallies Tuesday, and then there’s a glitch, and it's Wednesday, people will start questioning what's happening."
Ranked-choice will decide the Democratic primary for governor and the primary for the 2nd Congressional District Democratic race. There is a tight race between Janet Mills and Adam Cote in the gubernatorial primary, as neither of them ended up with a majority of the votes in that seven-candidate race.
The computer will look at all the rankings to find the winner. The same thing will happen in the congressional primary, where Jared Golden leads Lucas St. Clair and third-place finisher Craig Olsen.
The secretary of state plans to begin processing the ballots and memory sticks — entering them all into the computer — on Friday morning. Dunlap said that process will be tightly controlled but will be open to public view.