LEWISTON — The race for Maine’s 2nd congressional district seat is coming down to its final hours, with the GOP already raising several concerns about the process and Democratic contender Jared Golden of Lewiston taking a wait-and-see stance.

It has been nearly a week since polls closed, and Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is now overseeing the counting of ballots in the exceedingly tight 2nd District race, which will decide whether Golden goes to Congress or the seat is retained by incumbent two-term U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Oakland.

It’s possible that at least an unofficial count may be released later today. It’s allowed under the rules established for counting the more than 270,000 ballots cast in the ranked-choice voting election last week.

Final results are expected by Wednesday that would include every ballot in every town in the sprawling district.

Poliquin appears to have locked down the initial round of voting by about 1,900 votes. Nobody has a firm number yet because some little towns never reported any figures. Regardless, with each of the two leading candidates shy of receiving 50 percent of the vote —  both are hovering around 46 percent — the state’s ranked-choice law takes over.

In a ranked-choice system, voters can rank all of the contenders by preference. Therefore, the votes cast first for the other candidates in the 2nd District race — independents Tiffany Bond of Portland and Will Hoar of Southwest Harbor — will be distributed to Poliquin and Golden based on if and where they were ranked on those ballots.

In short, for example, if a voter picked Hoar first and Poliquin second, that ballot will be redistributed to Poliquin in the second round.

Once all of that counting is finished, something that Dunlap’s office is using high-speed tabulators to help accomplish, it will be possible to say how many votes were cast for both Poliquin and Golden. Whoever gets the most votes, as with any election, wins.

Poliquin has said little since his Election Night promise to monitor the count. The Maine GOP has raised concerns on social media and in press briefs.

On Saturday, his spokesman, Brendan Conley, issued a short statement that said, “After Congressman Poliquin won on election night with more than 2,000 votes, we have concerns over some of the ballots and ballot boxes that arrived in Augusta, including some with missing locks. There is also a report of a clerk at the Bangor polling station who was tabulating absentee ballots on her own and without any election monitoring, which is illegal. These are certainly concerning.”

Dunlap said that if Poliquin’s campaign had concerns, it should have reached out to him to check on them before issuing statements to the press.

“I feel like I should reach out to the campaign and say, ‘Let us do our work before you assume there is something nefarious happening.’ It could get people thinking there is something wrong,” Dunlap told the Portland Press Herald.

His office strenuously insisted that all of the ballots were handled properly.

Golden said Sunday he didn’t want to comment on the GOP’s concerns. He said he trusts the system to count the votes accurately, and is content to be patient and wait on the secretary of state’s process to find out who won and who lost.

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Ballot boxes are moved during the vote tabulation process for Maine’s Second Congressional District’s House election Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Augusta. The election is the first congressional race in American history to be decided by the ranked-choice voting method that allows second choices. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Bates College psychology professor Michael Sargent, left, at a forum Sunday at Bates that included three military veterans: Chris Beam, a former lecturer and archivist at Bates; Jared Golden, a Marine Corps combat veteran and Bates alum who is running for the U.S. House; and G. Lamar Stewart Sr., a Philadelphia minister and police officer who served in the Army in Iraq. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)

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