LEWISTON — No one is officially calling it the “Jenkins effect,” but city clerks on both sides of the Androscoggin River are prepared to handle a larger-than-usual number of write-in ballots on Election Day.
The city of Auburn, which traditionally turns out a larger percentage of registered voters, has added 10 staffers to voting places to ensure things go smoothly with write-in ballots, City Clerk Roberta Fogg said.
Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said that city hasn’t added staff but expects more polling-place workers could be involved in counting write-ins this year.
The reason? John Jenkins, who is running as one of five write-in candidates for governor.
Other races in Androscoggin County have no official write-in candidates. Unofficial write-ins garnering less than 1 percent of the total vote wouldn’t be tabulated.
Official write-in candidates are those who announced their intention to run to the Secretary of State’s office at least 45 days prior to the election. Those candidates’ names will not appear on the ballot but will be counted.
Prior to a law change several years ago, ballot clerks had to count and tabulate all write-in votes.
“We don’t tabulate votes for Mickey Mouse anymore,” Maine’s top election official, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, said Thursday.
Jenkins, who has served as mayor in both Lewiston and Auburn and won a last-minute write-in campaign in Auburn in 2007, is expected to fetch hundreds of local votes Tuesday.
Fogg said she couldn’t mention any candidate by name but she had decided to add one Republican and one Democrat to each of Auburn’s five polling places. Fogg said those workers would come in after polls have closed to be “fresh eyes” as the counting of write-in ballots begins.
In a typical election, each polling place in Lewiston sees between 12 and 20 write-in ballots, Montejo said. The six polling-place workers at each of the city’s four voting places usually split the post-election work, she said. They have two shifts so workers are still fresh when polls close.
It usually takes only two people to count write-in ballots while the other four work on picking up the polling station and seeing that ballots get delivered to City Hall on time. This year, if more workers are needed to count write-ins, they will be diverted from other tasks, Montejo said.
Fogg and Montejo said they didn’t think the write-ins or even a large turnout would slow the vote count by much.
“I think it’s going to be really fast on election night,” Montejo said.
Dunlap said that barring any major recounts or an overwhelming turnout, everything should go smoothly. Tabulating write-in votes for Jenkins shouldn’t slow things down in Lewiston-Auburn or the rest of the state, he said.