The discovery of 21 previously uncounted ballots from Long Island and their impact on the Senate District 25 race has conjured up images of nefarious political operatives covertly stuffing ballot boxes to tilt the election. That scenario would require a serious breach of Maine election law, which specifies an elaborate and detailed set of procedures to secure ballots – especially those subject to a recount – according to state election officials. If those procedures were followed, someone would have had to obtain a single key to reopen a locked metal box of ballots without disturbing an official seal to add the 21 ballots to the 171 ballots that were tabulated on Election Day. The 21 ballots were not discovered until a Nov. 18 recount in the race between Republican Cathy Manchester of Gray and Democrat Cathy Breen of Falmouth. The ballots were not formally challenged by Democrats during the recount, but they are now at the center of a mystery over why they weren’t counted when the polls closed on the night of Nov. 4, or how they ended up in a box that at several points was in the custody of Maine State Police.
The 21 ballots, all for Manchester, brought the total number of votes cast in the town of Long Island to 192 and effectively changed the winner from Breen to Manchester. Before the ballots turned up in the recount, Breen was the apparent winner, 10,930 to 10,898. After the recount, Manchester was in the lead, 10,927 to 10,916. The final total includes ballots from other towns that had been missing or were changed.
The Maine Democratic Party is calling for a new recount and an investigation. It also wants a yet-to-be constituted special Senate committee to subpoena the Long Island town clerk to explain why the sealed ballot box contained 192 ballots when the official tally listed only 171.