Democrat candidate bows out of election dispute over votes

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AUGUSTA – Democrats have lost a seat in the State House barely a month after new members were sworn in.

On Wednesday, state Rep. Mike Shaw resolved a dispute over his election from a Standish district by announcing that he would withdraw, allowing Republican Gary Moore to be seated.

Shaw’s decision leaves Democrats with 88 seats, Republicans with 61 and two independents.

Shaw was provisionally seated in December as the representative from District 102. On Election Day, Shaw led Moore by 13 votes. After a recount, Moore took a six-vote lead in the race. Shaw, however, wasn’t satisfied with the results and the disputed election went to the House Elections Committee, which was charged with investigating the election and a second disputed seat from Aroostook County.

During its investigation, the panel determined that at least 15 ballots were cast in the race by residents from outside the district. There was no way to determine which 15 ballots, however, were flawed.

“It appears that 15 voters may have been given the wrong ballot on Election Day and since the margin was only six votes, I don’t think we can say with certainty that Mike Shaw won or lost this election because we’ll never know how those 15 people may have voted,” said Stan Gerzofsky, chairman of the House Elections Committee, in a prepared statement. “In such a case, where we can’t determine the election results accurately the precedent would be to ask the community to hold a special election – but that can be both costly and difficult.”

Shaw could have asked for a new election. He did not, citing the cost to taxpayers and controversy.

The Election Committee accepted Shaw’s withdrawal and will recommend to the full House that Moore be seated.

The committee will also recommend that state Rep. Pat Sutherland, a Democrat elected in District 7, maintain her seat in the House. The results of that race were contested by Republican John Churchill, but the committee did not find reason to overturn the election.

According to Speaker of the House Glenn Cummings, Moore was to be sworn in Wednesday afternoon during a session before the inauguration of Gov. John Baldacci.

“Rep. Shaw, or Mr. Shaw, could not have been more honorable or classy in the handling of this issue,” Cummings said.

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