The discovery of 21 so-called “phantom ballots” in Maine’s state Senate District 25 has Democrats crying foul. All 21 ballots were cast in Long Island for Republican Cathleen Manchester. Some Democratic officials are calling on Maine’s Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to intervene. But Dunlap says the outcome of the disputed election is up to the Maine Senate. Last week the voters of Senate District 21 were trying to figure out who they had elected as their new state senator. Comprised of so-called Gold Coast communities, such as Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth, voters in those towns thought they had elected Democrat Catherine Breen, of Falmouth, who unofficially defeated Republican Cathleen Manchester of Gray by just 32 votes. The close election triggered a recount request that resulted in a reversal of fortune for Manchester, who now finds herself winning the race by 11 votes. But Kate Knox, an attorney for the Maine Democratic Party, had a chance to inspect the ballots from the District 25 town of Long Island. She says something doesn’t add up. “Then we went through and counted the number – the physical number of ballots,” she says. “That’s when we came up with,’Huh, this count appears to be 21 off.'”
Knox says that on Long Island, the incoming voter list showed that 171 residents had cast ballots on Election Day. But the recount conducted by Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap concluded that 192 ballots had been cast in that community, including a batch of 21 that was found separately from the other ballots – all of which were marked for Republican Cathleen Manchester.
The recount process is governed by rules agreed to by both parties and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, and Knox says she believed that the Democrats were entitled to take a closer look at the 21 votes now being described as so-called phantom ballots.
“That is when the Republicans said, ‘We’re not going to authorize that. We’re done. We counted them. We’re finished,’ ” she says. “So we weren’t able to go back and really take a comprehensive look and say, ‘OK, let’s pull these out. Let’s figure out where they came from.’ ”