City describes Portland ballot counting process, results likely by late Wednesday

Here’s a couple of paragraphs of information released by the city today about how the mayoral votes will be tabulated and when. Much of this was explained by consultant Caleb Kleppner in a presentation delivered to the public in mid-September, and all of the candidates I’ve talked to are very aware their fate will not likely be known until sometime the day after polls close.

But Portland residents hoping to learn who their first popularly elected mayor in 88 years will be when they turn on the 11 p.m. TV news Tuesday or pick up the Wednesday morning newspaper will be sadly disappointed.

The results of the ranked choice voting process will be determined during the workday Wednesday, and will likely be announced Wednesday afternoon or evening, depending on how many “instant runoff” rounds are necessary to get any individual candidate above the 50 percent threshold necessary to anoint a winner.

Here are a few informational paragraphs released by the city today describing ranked choice voting for those who are making their election day plans, as well as how the ballots will be counted Wednesday:

Ranked choice voting allows voters the opportunity to rank as many of the mayoral candidates as they would like according to preference. Voters will rank candidates in order of 1st choice, 2nd choice and so on, until either the voter no longer has a preference or all fifteen candidates have been ranked.

After polls close on Election Day, the City Clerk’s office will post the results for all ballot questions including the total number of 1st choice rankings for mayoral candidates. If on Election Day, no single candidate receives a majority (50 percent plus one) of the first choice votes cast, the following day, Wednesday, November 9, 2011, an instant run-off re-tabulation will be conducted by the city clerk with support from TrueBallot in the State of Maine room, City Hall, until a candidate receives a majority becoming the City of Portland Mayor. TrueBallot will begin at 8 a.m. by scanning all ballots to be followed by a review by the City Clerk, who must confirm that the ballots have been accurately scanned and read. This process will likely take several hours.

Following the verification of the ballots, the City Clerk will begin the re-tabulation process with the elimination of the candidate with the fewest 1st choice votes. Those ballots will then be recounted using the voter’s second choice candidate. Successive rounds of candidate elimination and re-tabulation will continue until one candidate receives a majority.

Earlier this fall, the City Clerk adopted rules to address a variety of issues related to ranked choice voting and the tabulation of votes. If a ballot contains a skipped ranking, the ranking that follows the skip will be considered the next valid choice. For example, if a voter completes a ballot and selects a 1st choice, 2nd choice and 4th choice, skipping the 3rd choice, the 4th choice will be treated as the 3rdchoice. If a ballot contains a multiple ranking, the ballot shall only count for the highest ranked choice for the candidate. For example if a voter selects a candidate as his/her first, second and third choice and then selects a different candidate for his/her fourth choice, this candidate will be treated as the second choice. If a ballot contains an over-vote, the ballot becomes invalid when that ranking is reached. For example if the ballot contains two 2nd choices, only the 1st choice will be counted as it would be impossible to determine voter intent for the second choice.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.