A tabulation of more than 11,000 ballots that had been initially overlooked in four primary contests decided by ranked-choice voting did not change the outcomes of those races, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Monday.

The four races included the hotly contested Republican 2nd Congressional District primary, as well as three Democratic primary races for seats in the Maine Senate and House.

Dunlap’s staff conducted the tabulation late Monday afternoon in his Augusta office after the assistant director of elections, who was proofreading results Saturday, discovered that thousands of hand-counted ballots from Maine towns had been overlooked following the July 14 primary.

Secretary of State Office staff selected the wrong computer file while uploading ballot images and in one town, a secure memory device suffered an error that prevented it from uploading the ballot images stored on it, according to Dunlap. He said more than 11,000 ballots were not counted.

Dunlap went public with the discrepancy Monday, even televising the live tabulation on the Secretary of State’s Office Facebook page.

“We wanted to do it publicly because ranked-choice voting has been controversial,” Dunlap said Monday evening in a telephone interview. “Transparency is always your friend when something like this happens. None of the outcomes changed.”

Dunlap assured voters that the tabulation system for ranked choice worked as it should have.

“Nothing went wrong with the system. Every ballot that was cast was counted,” he said.

Rep. Dale Crafts of Lisbon won the Republican 2nd Congressional District primary, fending off challenges from Adrienne Bennett and Eric Brakey. After the first round of ranked-choice tabulation, Crafts led with 45 percent of the vote, short of a clear majority. At that point, Bennett and Brakey conceded, but a second round of voting was tabulated, as required under ranked choice, and Crafts received 59 percent of the vote to Bennett’s 42 percent.

About 20 percent of the ballots cast in the 2nd district were overlooked, Dunlap said, but it had a tiny impact on the outcome. Crafts’ percentage dropped to 58 percent from 59 percent. He will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in November.

The Maine Republican Party has long opposed the use of ranked-choice voting.

“Another day, another tens of thousands of dollars wasted in Augusta,” the Maine Republican Party wrote Monday in a Facebook post.

Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, also took aim at ranked-choice voting, and  took a poke at the Secretary of State’s Office.

“It’s not every day a state election official admits to losing, or not counting 13,000 ballots,” Savage wrote in a Facebook post. Dunlap estimated the number of missing ballots to be more than 11,000.

“RCV: The mess that keeps on making messes,” Savage continued in another Facebook post. “What do we do if this sort of thing happens in a November Presidential election? Make the whole country wait for us to un-mess ourselves?”

The opponents of ranked choice submitted 72,512 petition signatures in June to the Secretary of State’s Office seeking to put a referendum initiative aimed at stopping the use of ranked-choice voting in presidential elections on the November ballot.

But the state determined that 11,178 signatures were not from valid registered voters, leaving the effort short of the 63,067-signature threshold needed to get the question on the ballot.

Maine Republican Party Chair Dr. Demi Kouzounas slammed the decision at the time saying, “Let me be clear. This fight is not over.”

Then in late July, the Maine Republican Party filed an appeal in Cumberland County Superior Court, asking a judge to overturn Dunlap’s decision. If the Republicans prevail, the pending referendum on the issue would delay the law at least until after the referendum.

Also in July, four Mainers filed a federal lawsuit claiming that ranked-choice voting disenfranchises voters whose ballots are eliminated before the final round of tabulation. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor, seeks to block the use of ranked-choice voting in the 2020 general election.

The voting system allows, but does not require, voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If one candidate receives more than 50 percent in the first round, that person wins. If no candidate receives a majority, the ranked preferences are used to decide the winner.

Maine has used ranked-choice voting for state primaries and congressional elections since 2018.


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