More than 30 witnesses will travel to the State House on Tuesday to testify in a special Senate committee’s investigation into the disputed Falmouth-area state Senate election that Democrats argue is still undecided. By day’s end Tuesday, the committee intends to rely on that testimony to compile a timeline that starts with the delivery of blank ballots to the community of Long Island and goes through every instance in which those ballots have been handled since Election Day, Nov. 4. Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta and Democratic Sen. Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick, who lead the seven-person Senate Electoral Committee, both acknowledged Monday that the prospect of completing the investigation on Tuesday may be a tall order given the number of witnesses — some of them residents of Long Island — for whom an impending winter storm might cause complications. “We’re in uncharted waters here. We’re trying to see if we can re-create the events of that day and understand what one would have actually seen had one actually been there,” said Katz, who was appointed by Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, to lead the committee. “Our goal is to complete this in a long day, but the most important thing is that we get it right.”
At issue is the Senate District 25 election for the seat that represents the towns of Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Yarmouth and part of Westbrook. After initial, unofficial counting of the ballots after Election Day, Democrat Catherine Breen appeared to have won by 32 votes. After a recount of the ballots, the result was reversed to show Republican Cathy Manchester with an 11-vote victory. Senate Republicans voted last week to seat Manchester provisionally until the matter is resolved.
Maine law requires that the full Senate vote on the outcome of contested Senate district election recounts. With a 21-14 majority in the Senate, counting Manchester, Republicans have the votes to lift the “provisional” title from Manchester’s position. But Katz has said it’s important that the election committee, made up of three Democrats and four Republicans, acts in a way that preserves the integrity of the state’s election system and thoroughly addresses concerns about any impropriety in how the District 25 ballots were handled and counted.