Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Contact: Kristen Schulze Muszynski
o: 626-8404/ c: 441-7638

Ballot distribution mistake in Sanford?s House District 19 race due to human error

AUGUSTA ? A discrepancy in the results of the Maine House of Representatives District 19 special election was due to election clerk error, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said Tuesday, and there is absolutely no evidence of any fraudulent intent.

When voters from District 18 and District 19 were casting their ballots at the Ward 1 Nasson Community Center polling place on Election Day, Nov. 3, election clerks were mistakenly handing out District 19 ballots without confirming that each voter resided in District 19. Sanford City Clerk Sue Cote noticed the error early on Election Day, which she promptly corrected.

?The stakes are high in any election, so any concern about the conduct of ballot procedures is something we take very seriously,? said Secretary Dunlap. ?In our review of the circumstances around the District 19 special election, while some human error was introduced into the process, no criminal conduct occurred.?

Eleven residents of District 18 were identified as having voted before the ballot distribution error was noticed. Among them was former Democratic Senator John Tuttle, who has publicly stated that he did not receive a District 19 ballot. Voting records show a difference of eight ballots, with 813 voters? names checked off as having voted in District 19, but 821 ballots cast in the District 19 race. It is impossible to know how many District 18 voters actually received the ballot in error, how many may have noticed the error and chose not the cast the ballot, or if election clerks simply failed to check off the names of some District 19 voters who cast ballots.

Regardless, the difference was not enough to change the outcome of the election, the results of which were confirmed in a recount conducted Friday, Nov. 13. Republican Matthew Harrington won the race, with 767 votes to Democrat Jean Noon?s 754.

Despite training sessions for election clerks and special efforts made to differentiate the districts on the incoming voter list, such as increased font size, it is clear that some voters did improperly receive the District 19 ballot. This was an unfortunate incident of human error, with no fraudulent intent on the part of any voter or election worker, and was promptly caught and corrected early on Election Day by the town clerk.

?While this stands as a strong lesson about taking great care in administering elections, the speculation about conduct at the polls is only that ? speculation,? said Secretary Dunlap. ?No one committed any violation of law.?