With all the problems we hear about elections and recounts, we all ought to be proud that Maine encourages and values voter participation and our Bureau of Elections handles recounts with absolute integrity.
Counting election ballots is an item on my bucket list. So when Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor lost the Nov. 6 election for Hancock County Judge of Probate by 57 votes out of 28,972 votes cast and asked the Bureau of Elections for a recount, I offered to be a counter for her.
The recount took place in Augusta on Nov. 28 and 29 at the offices of the Bureau of Election. I attended the recount on Nov. 29.
During Wednesday’s recount, Lynne had gained approximately 25 votes. The event took place in a rather small room given the number of people involved in the recount. There were six teams of counters, plus me supporting Williams and Joanne Eaton representing her opponent, William B. Blasidell, IV of Ellsworth, and a member of the Bureau of Elections, Ann Broucher.
Julie Flynn, longtime Bureau of Elections director, was present and managing the entire recount. Both candidates were also present. As recounts were tabulated, Flynn would brief both Blaisdell and Williams. The entire operation was accomplished without a single partisan comment. I had the feeling that everyone understood that our sole purpose was to ensure that the will of the voting public was accomplished.
The staff was professional, kind, and thoughtful. Flynn went out of her way to answer questions, which anyone had. The entire effort was flawless and accomplished the intended goal, which was to verify that the results of the election were accurate. In the end, Williams gained 32 votes, but still lost the election by 25 votes. When Flynn announced the result, there was no disagreement, and in fact Williams initiated a round of applause of appreciation for the enormous effort which had been displayed by staff and counters.
When all the ballots were refiled in the appropriate boxes, Bureau of Elections staff relocked padlocks and anti-tampering devices on each and every box while a member of the public recorded the numbers on the locks so that the integrity of the ballots is protected until the next recount for the Jared Golden/Bruce Poliquin 2nd Congressional District recount, which is scheduled to start on Thursday.
I was thrilled with the entire day’s efforts. This recount was done in a professional, uncontentious manner, void of any partisan conflict or comment.
Flynn said that some states do not count absentee ballots or ballots from our service people overseas, but Maine law requires that every ballot be counted as long as it was received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Flynn gave great credit to the “mama bear” election clerks in each city and town, who were equally professional and took great care to ensure integrity of the voting process.
Given what we have read and hear about the efforts by other states legislatures to make it as difficult as possible to vote, I am so proud of our Maine Legislature, which has enacted election laws to encourage voting and try to make it easy and convenient for people to vote. I am equally proud of Flynn and her staff for their professionalism and commitment to honoring the integrity of each citizen’s vote. We have lots to be grateful for in Maine when it involves elections and recount practices. As Maine goes, so should the rest of the states.
Skip Greenlaw is a former state representative who lives in Stonington.