AUGUSTA — The recount of the first-in-the-nation ranked-choice congressional election continued ahead of pace Thursday with little indication that the results of the contest in Maine’s 2nd District are going to change.

Ballot counters and attorneys for Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democratic challenger Jared Golden continued to process by hand about 295,000 ballots under the supervision of workers from the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the process was more than 40 percent complete as of midday. He said the ballots from the largest cities in the district, Lewiston and Bangor, had been reviewed and there was no significant change in the tally that saw Golden unseat Poliquin.

Dunlap said if the recount stays on pace it could be complete by Jan. 2, when Congress is sworn in, possibly allowing the state to issue a certificate of election in the race. He had initially estimated the recount would take longer.

Poliquin, who lost a constitutional challenge Thursday to Maine’s ranked-choice law, asked for the recount after Golden was declared the winner following a retabulation of ballots under the ranked-choice process in November.

Despite claims by Poliquin and his supporters that voters misunderstood the process or were confused about how to fill out their rankings on Election Day, Dunlap said there was little evidence of that emerging as the ballots being reviewed show voters knew what they were doing.

“It’s pretty clear they were able to figure it out,” Dunlap said. “I’ve always considered Maine voters to be pretty smart.”

Dunlap said if there was confusion surrounding the ranked-choice process it was because the same system was not applied to the governor’s race.

Josh Tardy, an attorney for Rep. Bruce Poliquin, and Jon Breed, campaign chair for Rep.-elect Jared Golden, said there were a handful of contested ballots so far, but not enough to alter the outcome of the race.

Josh Tardy, an attorney for Poliquin, and Jon Breed, an attorney for Golden, a state lawmaker from Lewiston, said there were a handful of contested ballots but not enough to change the outcome of the election, in which Golden defeated Poliquin by about 3,500 votes after the ranked-choice tabulation.

Dunlap has estimated that the recount is processing 25,000 to 28,000 ballots a day. If Poliquin does not prevail in the challenge, the cost of the recount will be charged to his campaign, which had to deposit $5,000 to start the process. Dunlap estimated the total cost at roughly $50,000 to $250,000.

He also said that for future elections, the Legislature needs to better fund the ranked-choice law, approved by voters twice, first in a 2016 ballot initiative and then this June in a successful “people’s veto.”

Dunlap estimated that the cost of running a ranked-choice election at $335,000 for the current election cycle, but said he believes $500,000 per election cycle is a more realistic estimate, especially if a ranked-choice retabulation is necessary in a statewide U.S. Senate race.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

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