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D.C. company to help Portland count ranked-choice mayoral votes

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D.C. company to help Portland count ranked-choice mayoral votes

PORTLAND — The city is finalizing details of a contract with an outside firm that will assist with November's mayoral election.

The city plans to hire TrueBallot, a Washington, D.C.-based election services company, to assist the city clerk's office in the vote count for Portland's first mayoral election in more than 80 years.

The company will being brought in because of the complexity of ranked-choice voting.

"We want the public to have full faith and trust," City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said. "We felt it was important to have experienced staff on hand to help with the first time."

Unlike traditional ballots, where people vote only for the candidates they wish to elect, voters in the mayoral election will rank all of the candidates in order of preference. As of July 15, 17 people had taken out nomination papers to put their names on the ballot.

Clegg said completed ballots from the Nov. 8 election will initially be run through the city's voting machines. If a mayoral candidate receives more than 50 percent of the popular vote, then he or she will be declared the winner.

If not, the ranked-choice tabulation will begin.

First, the candidate with the fewest votes will be dropped from contention. Then, voters who ranked that candidate as their first choice will have their second-choice votes added to the remaining candidates' totals. The process will continue until a candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote.

Clegg said TrueBallot will use computers and software to scan each ballot and do the calculations.

She said it could take a day or two to discern the winner, and "people shouldn't expect a result that night."

The ballot processing will take place in the State of Maine room at City Hall, where the public and candidates will be able to observe the process, Clegg said.

The contract is for $20,000. Clegg said it does not require City Council approval, since there is a termination clause, and did not require the city to seek bids, since the cost fell below the threshold of $25,000.

Clegg said the company was recommended by City Clerk Katherine Jones, who researched the vendors.

"They do other elections larger than the city of Portland," Clegg said.

If a majority candidate is produced during the initial ballot count, Clegg said the city must still pay TrueBallot $10,000. That fee will cover the pre-election work of ballot preparation, formatting and training and to have the company "at the ready" on election night.

Clegg said she expects the contact to be signed later this week.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings.