A South Portland official locks up early ballots at City Hall in this October file photo. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Election fraud was not committed when a poll worker mistakenly handed an absentee ballot that had already been filled out to a Wilton man voting in person last week, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office said Monday.

The incident quickly caught fire in conservative social media circles after resident Al Paradis posted about it during last Tuesday’s election. Paradis did not notice the ballot was filled out in favor of Democratic candidates until he went into the booth.

When he brought the ballot back to the election worker, the worker apologized and gave him a new ballot. Town Clerk Diane Dunham has apologized for the mistake and took responsibility for it, according to the Lewiston Sun Journal.

The election workers were processing absentee ballots in the same place they were handing out blank ballots, according to Dunlap’s office. While the town was advised to keep its absentee and new ballots separate going forward, an investigation by Dunlap’s office and Attorney General Aaron Frey’s office found no wrongdoing.

Voting fraud is rare across the country and in Maine. An Orono woman was charged in late October with violating election law after she allegedly filled out a former roommate’s ballot. That case was motivated by a personal dispute between the two and was apparently not an effort to influence the election, Frey’s office said at the time.