HAMPDEN, Maine — Twenty days and a 2½-hour recount later, the result of the Hampden Town Council’s District 2 race was exactly the same.
A recount of ballots cast in the District 2 race between Thomas Brann and Mark Gray for a Town Council seat affirmed the results reached on election night, with incumbent Brann winning by 19 votes.
All 674 ballots returned were counted — 50 at a time by four total counters — at the Hampden Town Office on Monday afternoon, and the results were identical, with Brann getting 304 votes and Gray getting 285.
Eighty-five ballots had votes for neither candidate.
“The question was those 85 votes and why they were kicked out,” said Gray. “Was Mickey Mouse written on them or what? Now we know. Some people just did not vote for a candidate or voted for a John Doe in District 2.”
Each candidate had one counter of his choice stationed at two tables labeled “TEAM A” and “TEAM B.” The tables were cordoned off from the council gallery and 18 onlookers by stanchions and rope.
Town Clerk Denise Hodsdon organized the recount in accordance with Maine election law with assistance from election wardens Pat Skehan and Amy Eaton.
“This is my first recount in my 11 years as town clerk, and I’ve never witnessed one before either,” said Hodsdon. “The secretary of state has developed very straightforward rules, and they were easy to follow. It was a real-life civics lesson, and it reinforced the accuracy of the machines and the process we use.”
Town Attorney Thomas Russell also attended, but he was not asked for any clarification or assistance. Vivian Gresser and Debbie Lozito supervised on behalf of the Maine Republican and Democrat parties, respectively.
“It’s the first recount I know of in the town of Hampden since I’ve been living here,” said Brann, who has been a resident for more than 20 years. “The thing that makes me the most happy is that our town staff has been completely vindicated in their election process despite efforts by some to imply things weren’t on the up and up.”
Fourteen locked and sealed metal ballot boxes were wheeled in by dolly by a Hampden police officer, placed on the council chamber desks and then opened after box identification numbers were confirmed in official records.
“I’ve been exposed to recounts in the past because my wife and mother-in-law both participated in legislative recounts, but this is the first time I was involved in one,” said Gray.
The counters were Jim Feverston and wife Sandra Feverston for Brann, and Lois Bloomer and Ed Armstrong for Gray.
In addition to the close margin of victory, another reason Gray asked for a recount was the discovery by town officials and voters that five voters in District 2 mistakenly were given the wrong ballots, which were printed for District 1 and had different candidates on them.
This was Gray’s first run for an elected office. He said he wouldn’t rule out another try.
“Oh, it may happen. We’ll have to see if they can find anyone better next time,” said Gray. “There are three more seats open next year, and I still have the campaign signs.”