January 19, 2020
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Secretary of State to recount ballots in three close Senate races

AUGUSTA, Maine — Three state Senate candidates have requested recounts of the Nov. 4 ballots in their districts.

The requests are in Senate seats in Waldo, Androscoggin and Cumberland Counties.

— Senate District 11 (Waldo County), Democrat Jonathan Fulford versus Mike Thibodeau. According to unofficial election results compiled by the Bangor Daily News (the Secretary of State’s office has not yet posted its results), the incumbent Thibodeau won the seat 9,064 votes to 8,949, a 115-vote margin. Thibodeau, the former Senate minority leader, was nominated by his Republican peers Friday to be president of the Senate for the 127th Legislature, though that is subject to approval by the full Senate when it convenes in December.

— Senate District 21 (Lewiston), Democrat Nathan Libby versus Republican Patricia Gagne. According to the BDN’s unofficial results, Libby was victorious by a vote of 6,636 to 6,572, a 64-vote margin. This seat was formerly held by Democrat Margaret Craven, who opted not to seek re-election.

— Senate District 25 (part of Cumberland County), Democrat Catherine Breen versus Republican Cathleen Manchester. According to the BDN’s unofficial results, Breen took the seat by a vote of 10,897 to 10,890, a seven-vote margin. This seat was previously held by independent Richard Woodbury, who opted not to seek re-election.

All three recounts will take place beginning at 9 a.m. in the Florian Room of the Department of Public Safety in Augusta. The Senate District 11 recount is Friday, Nov. 14; Senate 21 is Monday, Nov. 17; and Senate 25 is Tuesday, Nov. 18.

The deadline for recount requests is 5 p.m. Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office said early Monday afternoon that no other candidates at any level had yet requested recounts. Recounts are public. Representatives of each candidate and staff members from the Secretary of State’s Office manually review each ballot to determine the official vote tally. There are no automatic recounts in Maine elections, so candidates must request them.

According to state law, the Maine State Police collect paper ballots in districts where there will be recounts and keep them in a secure facility in tamper-proof metal containers that are closed with specially numbered security seals and locks.

If a recount produces enough disputed ballots to affect the outcome of an election, then the state Senate would determine which Senate candidates to seat and the House would determine which House candidates to seat. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court determines county races and statewide referenda.

Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said Monday that the increased use of automated ballot-counting machines leads to fewer errors.

“With so many of these results being counted by tabulator, it is unlikely to see something overturned,” Flynn said in a written statement.

Reversals do occasionally happen, though. In the 2006 primary election, unofficial returns showed that House District 42 candidate Joseph E. Brooks defeated Donna M. Gilbert by nine votes, 224-215. A recount revised the tally to 237 votes for Gilbert and 189 for Brooks.

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