Voting in Maine ended at 8 p.m. Tuesday, but the ballot counting may not be over yet in all communities because of the high turnout and the challenges of running polling places safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it may be several days or more before winners are declared in some races because of ranked-choice voting.

Here’s what you need to know about what will happen with ballot counting today and in the days ahead:

My town doesn’t have its final results posted yet. What’s going on with that?

Under Maine law, municipalities have two days after the election to finish their work and submit their tallies to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office. The secretary of state then has up to 20 days to certify official results.

How does ranked-choice voting factor into all of this?

In races where ranked-choice voting was applied, which includes both the U.S. Senate race and the presidential race, if no candidate reached more than 50 percent of the vote total in the initial results, then ranked-choice tabulation of the races will continue at the Maine Secretary of State’s Office in Augusta.

This process involves bringing all the encrypted memory devices from ballot scanning machines to Augusta. There, the data on them can be extracted and voters’ ranked choices can be tabulated to determine a winner, which can take up to 10 days to complete. Towns that don’t use ballot scanning machines will have the actual ballots transported for scanning by a high speed machine in Augusta, which also collects ranking data on an encrypted memory device so it too can be added to the totals.

Both ballots and memory devices are transported to Augusta by bonded carrier and are stored in locked and specially sealed containers to prevent tampering.

What if a candidate wins by only a handful of votes? How do recounts work?

Maine law does not require automatic recounts. But a losing candidate can request a recount within five days of the election. Depending on the margin of loss, the losing candidate’s campaign may be required to pay a deposit on the cost of the recount. If the results remain unchanged, the campaign may have to cover the cost of the recount.

There is no deposit or payment requirement for a recount if the gap between the leading candidate and the candidate requesting a recount is 1.5 percent or less of total votes cast for that office. The deposit amounts for recounts beyond that vary based on the office in question. Statewide or multi-county offices require a larger deposit, as do races where the requesting candidate has lost by a wider margin in the initial tabulation. Under state law, recounts must be completed within 20 days of the election.


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