From Fair Vote
TAKOMA PARK, Md. — An influx of more than 6,000 previously uncounted ballots upheld the same outcome in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race. The ballots, discovered during the Maine Secretary of State’s certification process, were included in the official results released Monday.
It is not uncommon for changes in vote totals to be identified before elections are certified, regardless of the voting system: ranked choice or otherwise.
“Unofficial results of any election are preliminary – a snapshot of the moment, not final certified results,” said Gary Bartlett, executive director for the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center and former executive director for North Carolina’s Board of Elections. “A failsafe of every election is a canvassing period – an audit process – where all ballots are crossed-checked and reconciled with election laws and procedures.”
The additional votes did not change the results, and in fact, widened Democrat Jared Golden’s margin of victory over Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin from 2,905 to 3,509 votes.
Official results confirmed that 2nd District voters understood the ranked choice voting system well. More than 99.8 percent of 2nd District race voters cast valid first choice – consistent with the fact that more Maine voters cast ballots in the RCV contest for U.S. Senate than the more competitive, non-RCV election for governor. Meanwhile, more than 97 percent of voters’ ballots counted through the ranked choice tally.
About half of 2nd District voters ranked at least two candidates, with an even higher percentage among supporters of the independent candidates. Voters are more likely to rank candidates in competitive races that lack a clear frontrunner; for example, 87 percent of voters in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in June ranked more than one candidate.
This ballot data upholds the findings from an exit poll FairVote conducted in partnership with the Bangor Daily News and Colby College, which showed more than 60 percent of voters surveyed wanted to keep or expand ranked choice voting. A 75 percent majority, including both Democrats and Republicans, also found ranking choices easy, according to the survey, while more than 62 percent said having a majority winner was important.
“In every election, the overriding goal is to make sure that every vote is properly counted,” said Anna Kellar, executive director for the League of Women Voters of Maine. “We have reviewed Secretary of State’s statement on the anomaly and have completed confidence in the accuracy of the final tally, as well as the professional administration of the election by public officials.”
Maine made history this November by becoming the first state to use of ranked choice voting to elect a U.S. Senator and two House members. Unlike the Senate and 1st District races, which declared winners based on majority outcomes in first choices, the 2nd District race required a ranked choice tally to determine the outcome. No candidate crossed the 50 percent mark in the first round – Golden and Poliquin each earned about 46 percent of the vote with the remaining 8 percent in support of the two independents. Golden emerged the winner under the “instant” runoff, earning more than two-thirds of votes from independent candidate supporters.