The lengthy town-by-town recount of nearly 300,000 ballots cast in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race will begin Thursday morning, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, right, sought a recount after apparently losing to Jared Golden, left. Contributed photos

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin requested the recount after a tabulation of the ballots using Maine’s ranked-choice voting system showed him trailing Democrat Jared Golden by 3,509 votes. Poliquin is also challenging the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting in court.

The recount is expected to take as long as four weeks as teams from the two campaigns hand-count each ballot in every municipality, setting aside any disputed ballots. The process is repeated for each round of ranked-choice voting as the teams tabulate the second- and third-choice preferences of voters whose candidates were eliminated from contention.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office announced Monday that the recount will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday in Room 110 of the Elkins Building, which is at 19 Elkins Lane on the former Augusta Mental Health Institute campus. Members of the public and the media can watch the recount, which will be suspended from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 for the holidays.

The Secretary of State will start the recount with the paper ballots already on hand in Augusta because of the ranked-choice runoff and a Hancock Count recount. As the recount teams go through the on-hand ballots, Maine State Police troopers would, if necessary, be sent to retrieve additional paper ballots from towns that sent digital images of scanned ballots to Augusta for the Nov. 15 ranked-choice voting runoff.

“About one-third of the CD2 ballots are already in hand: The ballots from all hand-count municipalities in Congressional District 2 have been retained at the secure tabulation site from the initial tabulation effort,” Dunlap’s office said in a media release. “Additionally, all ballots from Hancock County are on hand due to a county Judge of Probate recount. Maine State Police will collect additional ballots as directed by the recount supervisor.”

Maine’s 2nd District race has the first congressional contest in the nation to be decided by ranked-choice voting. It will also be the first time the Secretary of State’s Office conducts a recount of a ranked-choice election.

The final tally of the ranked-choice runoff had Golden – a Marine Corps veteran and state lawmaker from Lewiston – leading the Republican incumbent by 142,440 votes to 138,931 votes. Maine’s lengthy history of recounts suggests that Poliquin is unlikely to overcome a 3,509-vote deficit, which is more than 1 percent of the votes cast in the election.

The recount is scheduled to begin one day after a judge in U.S. District Court in Bangor hears oral arguments on Poliquin’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting. The congressman also has asked Judge Lance Walker to order a new election.

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

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Correction: This story was updated at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, to indicate that state police will be dispatched to retrieve ballots only if necessary.