Employees with the Secretary of State’s Office continue to enter ballots into a database Tuesday in preparation for the Democratic gubernatorial primary tabulation process.

AUGUSTA — Democrats were still waiting Tuesday to find out which candidate will represent them in Maine’s gubernatorial race this fall because the effort to certify ballots from around the state delayed tabulation in the ranked-choice voting election until Wednesday.

Republicans, meanwhile, rallied Tuesday outside the State House, using more than a week’s head start on the opposition to gather lawmakers and former gubernatorial candidates in a show of support for their nominee, businessman Shawn Moody.

The wait for Democrats should end Wednesday – or at least it looked that way Tuesday evening.

The Maine Secretary of State’s Office had finished scanning and downloading hundreds of thousands of ballots from across the state as of Tuesday evening, one week after Election Day. But before ranked-choice tabulations can take place, the office must perform a critical last step – the “certification” that ensures every town’s inventory of ballots and votes from election night matches the totals in Augusta, or that any discrepancies have been resolved.

“This is where people will probably get a little bit impatient because it’s like, ‘Everything is in. When are you going to run the numbers and what are you waiting for?’ ” said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. “But really what we are doing is doublechecking to make sure it’s all right, that we have everything properly loaded. And then once we make sure of that, it should be, at this rate, sometime tomorrow that we put out the public notice and run the tabulation.”

Earlier in the day, technical glitches had forced the Secretary of State’s Office to send staff detectives to retrieve paper ballots from five towns: Gray, Ellsworth, Lewiston, Orland and Westbrook. That’s because the digital files of some scanned ballots could not be read by the tabulation computers, forcing Dunlap’s staff to retrieve and re-scan the paper ballots.

Those ballots were delivered by Tuesday afternoon, and officials said the retrieval effort did not really cause a delay Tuesday because the time-consuming certification process was still being done.

Democratic candidates for governor Betsy Sweet and Adam Cote enjoy Tuesday’s weather along the Kennebec River in Hallowell while, across the river in Augusta, election workers continue the process of determining the winner of the party’s primary.

Late Tuesday afternoon, as it looked increasingly clear that elections staff wouldn’t finish the vote tabulations until Wednesday, a pair of friendly Democratic rivals on the campaign trail, Adam Cote and Betsy Sweet, opted to watch eagles and ducks on the Kennebec River rather than the ranked-choice ballot processing occurring a few miles upriver.

“I think they are doing a very professional job,” said Sweet, a Hallowell resident sitting third in the Democratic race behind Mills and Cote, according to unofficial results. “I do think that because it is new, it is taking longer and they are being more thorough … but in the long run, a few days doesn’t matter.”

Seated on a bulkhead overlooking the river, Cote, his wife and several campaign staffers were enjoying the sunshine and the occasional splash of a sturgeon leaping from the river.

“We are trying to make the most of the time during the waiting period,” Cote said. “We are just looking forward to getting a final answer.”

Meanwhile, not far away outside the State House, Republicans were publicly rallying behind Moody, who avoided a ranked-choice tabulation by winning more than 50 percent of the vote last week. The Gorham businessman was joined by Gov. Paul LePage and other Republicans during a State House “unity rally.”

Gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody speaks Tuesday at the Republican “unity rally” in Augusta.

All three of Moody’s primary challengers – Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, and former Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew – said they were solidly behind Moody. State Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, who left the race before the primary election, also spoke in support of Moody.

“The one thing I said throughout the campaign was if the people who do the work take time out to go vote, I think we are going to be in good shape,” Moody said. “You saw by the results of the election, the people that do the work voted and they sent a clear message to the rest of the people in Maine, that the people that do the work are tired of the people who don’t do the work telling us how to do the work.”

Moody didn’t have a preference about which Democratic candidate he might face in November and wasn’t trying to calculate who the winner will be, or which one would be the easiest to defeat. He said that as governor, he would use all the tools and resources at his disposal to help people get ahead.

Oops! We could not locate your form.

“I feel like we have a strong message for the people of Maine,” Moody said. “The people of Maine are tired of getting by. They want to get ahead.”

Whenever the Democratic primary race is decided, it will make history. Maine is the first state in the nation to use ranked-choice voting in a statewide primary election.

Under the ranked-choice system, voters select candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first count, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who preferred the eliminated candidate would then have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until one candidate has a majority and is declared the winner.

At least two Democratic races appear headed for a ranked-choice tabulation, although one remains too close to call.

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. Cote was second with 28 percent, followed by Sweet at 16 percent, former House Speaker Mark Eves at 14 percent, Portland state Sen. Mark Dion at 4 percent, former Portland Rep. Diane Russell at 2 percent and former Biddeford Mayor Donna Dion at 1 percent.

A sign shows that ranked-choice ballots are being counted in Augusta. As of Tuesday morning, election workers still had to scan the paper ballots of 13 towns that had already delivered the ballots to Augusta.

Based on those unofficial results, it appears that either Mills or Cote will emerge as the winner, with the supporters of Eves and Sweet pushing one over the 50 percent threshold.

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 received 41 percent of the vote and Craig Olson of Isleboro received 10 percent, according to the unofficial results.

As of Tuesday evening, election officials had certified all of the results for Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Franklin, Hancock and Kennebec counties and were working through the state’s remaining 10 counties.

Dunlap’s office had predicted several weeks ago that any results from ranked-choice tabulations probably would not be available until Monday at the earliest, and perhaps later. The logistics of gathering ballots from 500-plus municipalities across Maine – and then scanning, downloading and certifying those results – take time, Dunlap said.

“We want to make sure every ballot is counted,” he said. “You don’t want to leave anything out there … and the reason that is important is people want to know what the real result is. They don’t want it hanging out there that we didn’t count everything or that there are some loose ends. Loose ends create uncertainty, and uncertainty begets rumors and mistrust in the system.”

Staff Writer Scott Thistle contributed to this report.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.