Voting irregularities mar Sanford legislative election

Republican Matthew Harrington’s victory in the special election for a Maine House of Representatives seat representing part of Sanford was confirmed in a Friday recount.

However, it came with bipartisan criticism of problems at one polling place, including a Maine Republican Party accusation of voter fraud against a former Democratic state senator. That attack’s validity is unclear, however, and the situation merits some explanation.

At the Nasson Community Center, one of three polling places in the city, 813 names of eligible voters in the race for House District 19 were checked off, but eight more ballots were cast, according to Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

A mix-up by election clerks likely led to that problem: Muszynski said that 11 people who live in neighboring House District 18 voted at the polling place before clerks realized that all voters shouldn’t have been getting ballots for Harrington’s District 19 race.

One of the 11 was John Tuttle, a former Democratic state senator. In a statement, Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett said it was “shocking and appalling” that Tuttle “illegally voted” in the election.

But here’s the rub: Muszynski said it’s unclear that all 11 people received or cast the wrong ballots and because there was only an 8-vote difference between the names checked off and the ballots cast, they couldn’t all have voted in the wrong district.

Tuttle told the Journal Tribune that he never had the wrong ballot to begin with. Of course, one person’s word isn’t proof, but there’s really no way to know for sure who cast the wrong ballot, Muszynski said.

So, while the Maine GOP’s accusation may have been a reach given the limits of what we can know, this isn’t to say that these mistakes weren’t a factor in the election.

In a statement, Maine Democratic Party Executive Director Jeremy Kennedy said he hopes Dunlap’s office examines the problems “so that the integrity of our electoral process remains intact.” — Michael Shepherd


Maine’s congressional delegation reacts to Paris attacks

European authorities continue to investigate the Friday attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris. The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attacks and French warplanes bombed the group’s targets on Sunday.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told WCSH that calling the attackers terrorists dignifies them because it “implies some rational political end.”

“Anyone that stands up in the balcony of a crowded theater and opens fire randomly on innocent people in the audience below, in my book, isn’t a terrorist but is a simple, cowardly thug,” he said.

“We have to acknowledge the painful reality that ISIS, al-Qaida and other extremist Islamic groups are out to get us,” Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, told WGME on Friday. “That is not paranoia, that is the truth.”

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from the 2nd District, called for increased security along the U.S. border with Mexico in a statement, “so that we not only deal with the issue of illegal immigration but we also ensure terrorists do not cross our border to do us harm.”

And in a statement to WMTW, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, said after the attacks, “we must strengthen our commitment to fighting terror and hatred around the world.” — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

‘This is how a team plays’

If you want to start your Monday on an uplifting note, I offer this trailer for a documentary on the Lewiston Blue Devils boys’ soccer team, which won the Class A state championship this month.

The team, made up of players from six countries and mostly African immigrants, were undefeated season this year. The movie, “One Team,” will come out next year and it’s being produced by Ian Clough, a 2001 graduate of Lewiston High School, according to the Sun Journal. — Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.