Senate recount may be undecided for weeks

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Two weeks after Election Day, one state Senate race still isn't decided. Democrats are disputing the results of the Senate District 25 recount because of nine disputed and several missing ballots.

The unofficial count on Nov. 4 was very close and Democrat Cathy Breen looked like the winner by roughly 30 votes. Tuesday's Secretary of State recount showed that Republican Cathy Manchester had won by 11 votes.

The two sides cannot decide on nine disputed ballots, where the marks are so unclear that it's difficult to decide who exactly voter intended. There are also other ballots that are missing. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said no one has done anything wrong, but that it appears some ballots were misplaced before or during the recount. He said there are six ballots unaccounted, while Democrats said there are ten. As a result of that uncertainty, Democratic Party lawyer Kate Knox said she refused to sign off on the vote total Tuesday night, meaning the race will now get decided by the Senate itself.

How the process will exactly proceed is unclear. Lawyers for both parties said Senate rules don't spell out the process. They do agree that the new, Republican-controlled Senate will get to form a committee to examine the ballots, and eventually decide the winner. Republican lawyer Josh Tardy said he's confident Manchester will prevail. Democratic attorney Kate Knox said there are more than enough disputed and missing ballots to swing the race back to Breen.

The result won't have much impact in the Senate, where Republicans already have won a large majority. There is a chance it could influence the elections for Attorney General, State Treasurer and Secretary of State. The House and Senate must approve those positions, and one more Republican would make it possible for Gov. Paul LePage to successfully appoint new people.

The outcome won't be known until after the new Senate is sworn in Dec. 3. Before that day, Secretary Dunlap will have to name a provisional winner. The Constitution and rules are apparently unclear on that matter as well.


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