Workers at the secretary of state's office in Augusta process ballots Saturday in Maine's 2nd District U.S. House race. Credit: Photo courtesy of the secretary of state

AUGUSTA, Maine — As ballots continued to be processed Saturday in Augusta, incumbent U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, expressed concerns about ranked-choice voting for Maine’s 2nd District seat.

The Maine secretary of state said all ballots from towns in the district have been delivered to Augusta, where they will be scanned as part of the ranked-choice voting process.

Neither Poliquin nor his top challenger, Democrat Jared Golden, received a majority of the first-choice votes, moving the election to an instant runoff, during which the second choices of two independents will reallocated among the remaining candidates until one reaches more than 50 percent of the ballots in play.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting to the BDN, Poliquin, a two-term Republican, had 46.3 percent of votes to 45.6 percent for Golden.

Saturday afternoon, Poliquin’s campaign said in a statement that although he “won Election Day,” he now has to wait for ranked-choice voting to play out, unlike in any other congressional race.

“As ranked-choice voting begins, it’s clear that Bruce won Election Day by a margin of over 2,000 votes, defeating all 3 other opponents,” the statement reads. “In any other federal election across America this process would be complete. Maine is the only state subject to this ranked-choice voting system which allows people multiple votes, via the reallocation of their vote, if they didn’t initially select one of the two top vote earners. We will continue to monitor this process, as there have been ongoing concerns.”

The ranked-choice voting process, supported by Maine voters in 2016 and again in June, is expected to be completed early this week.

The secretary of state’s office took Sunday off before reconvening Monday in Augusta to continue their work.

Exit polling conducted on Election Day — administered by the BDN and funded by the group FairVote, with help by Colby College — showed that Golden is likely to overtake Poliquin for the victory after the second-choice votes of independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar are counted. The polling indicated that supporters of Bond and Hoar are overwhelmingly more likely to favor Golden over Poliquin.

Still, the count of second-choice votes may not be the end of the debate. Poliquin could request a recount and could — as fellow Republican Gov. Paul LePage has urged — challenge the results in court if he wins an Election Day plurality before ultimately losing the race.

This is the first time a U.S. congressional race using ranked-choice voting has proceeded to an instant runoff. U.S. Sen. Angus King and 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree received more than 50 percent on Election Day, avoiding the need for additional rounds of vote counts.