AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine Democrats suggested at a Monday press conference that there was ballot tampering in Senate District 25, but Republicans said that the 21 untraceable ballots are a result of a clerical mistake.
A recount between the tight Senate District 25 race showed the winner had flipped since election night. Democrat Catherine Breen appeared to be the initial winner, by 32 votes. But after the recount, Republican Catherine Manchester was the apparent winner by 11 votes. The Secretary of State's office inspected the town of Long Island's warden list from the Nov. 4 election. There are 171 names on the list, which indicates how many people actually went to the polls in Long Island. The recount showed 192 votes from Long Island, all 21 additional votes for Manchester.
A Republican-controlled Senate will being to sort this out when it starts its session on Wednesday and will form a bipartisan committee to investigate the ballot issue on Long Island. In the meantime, a provisional winner must be appointed, but the law is unclear about who that should be. The Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Breen should be seated while the Senate investigates, but Republican Senator Roger Katz said the party will order Manchester be seated preliminary.
Democrats ad Republicans held separate press conferences Monday to address Senate District 25 and both claim this isn't about politics, but about the integrity of Maine's elections. However, the parties are characterizing the issue very differently.
"It appears that there was just a clerical error that 21 ballots didn't get counted. And we're glad they've been counted. But we want to find out for sure," said Senator Roger Katz, R-Augusta.
"We expect Republicans to share this concern of potential ballot tampering because, again, this is not about a political party, it is about the integrity and confidence we can all have when we cast our ballot," said outgoing Senate President Justin Alfond D-Portland.
Party leaders aren't sure how long the investigation will take, but eventually the committee will recommend the permanent person to hold the District 25 seat. With a Republican majority, the order to have Manchester temporarily seated will likely pass.