Lewiston among 5 towns whose ballots must be rescanned before count begins

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AUGUSTA – Technical glitches forced the Maine Secretary of State’s Office to send staff detectives to retrieve paper ballots from five towns Tuesday morning, potentially further delaying a ranked-choice voting tabulation of last week’s primary elections.

The five towns – Gray, Ellsworth, Lewiston, Orland and Westbrook – all scanned voters’ completed ballots last week and then sent digital files of those ballots to Augusta for the ranked-choice tabulation. But Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said some of those files from the towns could not be read by the tabulation computers and, therefore, required the office to retrieve and re-scan the paper ballots.

The problem did not affect all of the ballots in the five towns. State officials plan to scan ballots from just one precinct each in Ellsworth and Lewiston, and only absentee ballots from Westbrook.

As of Tuesday morning, election staff also still had to scan the paper ballots of 13 additional towns that had already delivered the ballots to Augusta.

The remaining ballot processing raised doubts about whether final tabulation would be finished on Tuesday or get delayed until Wednesday.

“We’ll have a better idea later today of whether we are going to be done today or not,” Flynn told a small gathering of campaign monitors, ranked-choice voting staffers and reporters.

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The outcome of at least two races – the Democratic primaries for governor and the 2nd Congressional District – remains unclear a week after the election. Under ranked-choice elections, candidates must receive at least 50 percent of the vote in order to be declared a winner or voters’ rankings are used to determine a winner.

In the Democratic primary for governor, Attorney General Janet Mills was leading the seven-person field with 33 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Mills was followed by veteran and attorney Adam Cote at 28 percent, advocate and lobbyist Betsy Sweet at 16 percent and former House Speaker Mark Eves at 14 percent.

In the three-person Democratic primary for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, Jared Golden’s 49 percent was just shy of the 50 percent needed to avoid a ranked-choice tabulation. Lucas St. Clair of Hampden had received 41 percent of the vote and Craig Olson of Isleboro received 10 percent, according to the unofficial results.

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