It’s not impossible that in this year’s razor thin presidential race the Electoral College could be decided by a single vote from Maine’s 2nd District.
With the outcome in a number of states still up in the air, chances are it won’t matter how the district voted between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
But divvy up the remaining states in just the right way and everything could perhaps hinge on Maine.
As of Wednesday morning, Trump appears to be in the lead, with a 52-45 margin in the district. But there are so many uncounted voters that it’s impossible to say for sure who won it.
If neither Trump nor Biden got more than 50%, the state will reallocate the ballots of those who voted for the three third party candidates — Libertarian Jo Jorgensen, Green Howie Hawkins and Alliance Party nominee Rocky De La Fuente — so those who ranked Trump or Biden next would have their ballots redistributed to one of the frontrunners. It’s a process that could likely last into next week.
Fifty years ago, in the wake of a three-way presidential race won by Republican Richard Nixon, Maine decided it would allocate its electoral votes in a new way.
Instead of delivering all four of its electoral votes to the statewide winner, it would provided two to the presidential hopeful who got the biggest overall tally in Maine and one each to whichever contender won in both of the Pine Tree State’s congressional districts.
From 1972 until 2016, the reform didn’t have any real-world consequences because the same person won the state and came out on top in both the 1st Congressional District and the 2nd Congressional District.
But four years ago, Trump lost Maine and came up short in the 1st District. But he won the 2nd District handily, racking up a 10-point margin in the sprawling, rural district on the way to a national victory.
This year, it’s not yet clear who won the 2nd District in the presidential race, which for the first time in American history could be decided by ranked-choice ballots if nobody got more than 50% in the first round.
In the district’s congressional race, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston, a Democrat, appears to have won reelection over Republican Dale Crafts of Lisbon. Golden ran stronger across the district than Biden, though, so his success may not portend anything for the presidential contest.
Across the country, as of 8 a.m., the winner remained uncertain in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Alaska and in Maine’s 2nd District.
In the only other state to allocate electoral votes by congressional district — Nebraska — Trump and Biden split the two possible votes.