February 18, 2019
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Maine ballot keepers: Election not rigged

Andree Kehn | Sun Journal
Andree Kehn | Sun Journal
Irene MacDougall (left) hands a ballot to a voter as Laurie Gifford sits next to her on Thursday at Lewiston City Hall. MacDougall said accusations that the election is rigged are "ridiculous."

LEWISTON, Maine — At her City Hall post Thursday, election worker Irene MacDougall paused and reflected on campaign rhetoric from Donald Trump and Gov. Paul LePage, who say the election is rigged.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said.

She and other ballot keepers say the election is not rigged and the voting process is secure.

All ballots will be counted, accurately and properly, MacDougall said.

Voting machines aren’t linked to the internet; they won’t be hacked, officials said. And dead people, or the names of the deceased, will not be fraudulently used.

During Wednesday’s presidential debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump, Trump again said if he loses, he will refuse to accept the results of the election, threatening to upend a pillar of the country’s democracy.

Clinton called his stance “horrifying.”

LePage has repeated Trump’s words that the election is rigged, even after being elected twice to office. On Tuesday, LePage said people will be voting “from the cemetery.”

However, LePage broke with Trump on acceptance of results on Thursday, saying it was a “stupid comment,” telling Trump to “take your licks” in a loss “and let’s move on four years.”

“In all the years, I’ve never heard this kind of accusation,” MacDougall said. “I’ve never heard anything regarding a rigged election. It is puzzling. What are you gonna say if you’re going to lose? That everything is rigged?”

It isn’t, she said.

“There are too many checks and balances,” she said. “This computer will not allow me to give a voter a ballot that he or she is not entitled to. It’ll kick me out. If you have already voted, the computer will tell me that.”

Bangor City Clerk Lisa Goodwin, president of the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association, said accusations of a rigged election are false and unfathomable.

“It is insulting to the integrity of the people who work the election, the whole process itself,” Goodwin said.

She offered an example of how the names of the deceased can’t be fraudulently used.

Officials in Augusta provide towns and cities with vital statistics, including the names of people who are deceased. Names of the deceased are matched with voter lists.

“We go through our list of people who died,” Goodwin said.

Their names are pulled off the voters list, she said.

Lewiston City Clerk and Voter Registrar Kathy Montejo said Maine’s voting machines are secure.

“These machines are freestanding and are not connected to the internet,” Montejo said.

When voters show up at the polls to vote, they’re given paper ballots that they mark, then insert into voting machines. The machines take the ballots and tally votes. When the polls close at the end of the night, the machines report the totals.

The machines are programmed to only receive ballots for a specific ward.

“If someone tried to insert a ballot from Ward 1 into a Ward 4 machine, it would reject it,” Montejo said.

Before this year, Montejo said she had never heard complaints or accusations of rigged elections “in my 20-plus years.”

Auburn City Clerk Sue Clements-Dallaire agreed, adding that voting machines are tested before elections.

“There are so many measures in place,” she said. “Elections are absolutely not rigged.”

Voters don’t have to show identification when they vote. But they do when they register to vote to get on the list of approved voters, a list election workers check before giving out ballots, city clerks said.

When registering, voters must show identification, proof of residency and where they’ve voted before.

“If somebody’s coming to Auburn and registering to vote, we go into the state system,” Clements-Dallaire said. “If we see they’re registered in another city, we enter their information. It pulls that information to Auburn. They can’t be registered in two places.”

Election workers have a lot of pride in what they do, Clements-Dallaire said.

“The clerks and officials work so hard to make sure everything goes smoothly and we have a flawless election,” she said. “I do have a hard time hearing things like that.”

Maine’s congressional delegation also isn’t worried about your ballot boxes being rigged this November.

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King — a Republican and independent, respectively — said they “have always had full faith and confidence in the integrity of the American electoral system, and expect this November’s election to be no different.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, said Trump’s “questioning of whether he will accept the will of voters is truly dangerous and goes against the country’s (democratic) values.”

Michael Byerly, spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s re-election campaign in the 2nd District, said while “some have concerns about places like Philadelphia and other cities where there have been issues,” Poliquin’s campaign is “confident that the clerks and volunteers in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District will do their duty well on Election Day.”

For the record, Philadelphia has been one of Trump’s focal cities when discussing voter fraud. In 2012, conservatives cited 59 precincts there where Republican Mitt Romney won no votes as an example of it. But Snopes found it to be a pretty plausible outcome in pockets of the city.

BDN writer Mike Shepherd contributed to this report.

 



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