Election clerk Randy Robbins, left, and ward clerk Chris Sirois help Bud Lewis enter his state and city ballots into voting machines at Washburn Elementary School in Auburn on Tuesday. Lewis, 99, said he has voted at the Ward I location since 1949. “I don’t think I have missed a single one (election),” said Lewis. Ward I warden Audrey Murphy said 543 voters cast their ballots by noon. “We have been steady,” said Murphy. (Sun Journal file photo)

AUGUSTA (AP) — Couriers will begin delivering ballots to Maine’s state capital on Thursday as residents await the results of the nation’s biggest test of ranked-choice voting.

A private courier service will start delivering hands ballots and memory sticks to a secure site in Augusta. Vote counting will begin on Friday and continue next week.

The state’s top election officials said they may release unofficial election results sometime next week.

Ranked-choice voting works like this: Voters rank candidates from first to last on their ballots. A candidate who collects a majority of the vote wins. If there is no majority, then the last-place candidate will be eliminated and votes reallocated. The process is repeated until there is a majority winner.

The voting system is used in 11 local jurisdictions and was used for the first time in a U.S. statewide primary on Tuesday.

Residents voted to retain the voting system, nullifying a legislative delay and allowing it to be used in November’s federal elections in Maine.

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

In Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, Marine Corp veteran and state lawmaker Jared Golden had the most first-place votes in Maine’s Democratic congressional primary.

At present, ranked-choice voting cannot be used in state general elections because of state constitutional concerns.

Supporters face stiff Republican opposition with plans to push a constitutional amendment that would allow the system to be used in the governors’ race, where nine out of the last 11 elections failed to produce a majority winner.