— Andrew Rice (@AndrewRiceSJ) November 9, 2017
AUBURN — After taking a day to mull it over, Adam Lee has requested a recount of the results of Tuesday’s mayoral election.
Lee said in a statement Thursday morning that he’s heard from dozens of supporters urging him to make the request.
Election night results showed Lee lost to Jason Levesque by six votes: 3,623 to 3,617. In Maine, a candidate has five business days to submit a written request for a recount.
“Over the past two days, I have taken some time to reflect,” Lee said in the statement. “While I value greatly the idea that we as a community need to begin healing from the wounds inflicted by this election, the decision whether to request a recount is not mine alone. I have heard from dozens of supporters, some very close friends and some who only know me from a door-knock or a handshake at the polls.
“Their voices are unanimous, the margin of six votes in an election where 7,693 voted is too small to not require some further inspection. Accordingly, I have requested a recount.”
He continued, “If the result is that Jason is the winner, I will do everything he asks me to in order to ensure that he is successful, and that Auburn is prosperous. As I’ve said, my commitment to service is unconditional. No matter the outcome of the recount or in what capacity I can contribute, I’m ready to serve.”
Auburn City Clerk Sue Clements-Dallaire said Thursday that she’s been working with both candidates to find a suitable date to conduct the tally. She said based on discussions so far, it may take place on either Nov. 20 or Nov. 21.
According to state law, once the written recount request is made, “the recount must be held as soon as reasonably possible at a time and place that affords the designated recount candidates a reasonable opportunity to be present.”
Clements-Dallaire said both candidates have to provide representatives to recount ballots, which is held under the supervision of the City Clerk’s Office. She estimated that each would provide six or more people to count ballots.
After learning of the recount request Thursday, Levesque said he has “full confidence in our city clerk and her staff to conduct the upcoming recount with great professionalism and in accordance with instructions set by the Secretary of State’s office.”
“The people did indeed speak on Nov. 7, and I will continue to work towards a smooth transition of responsibilities with all the involved parties,” he added. “The work of the people needs to continue and I am confident that the final outcome will mirror the initial one.”
Where votes may change
It’s not often that an election, even locally, is decided by such a close margin.
But, even when a recount does occur, there normally isn’t a significant swing in voting tallies. City clerks said Thursday that there are a few issues that can occur, but that they remain rare.
During a June 2014 election for the Lewiston-Auburn Joint Charter Commission, Holly Lasagna beat Verne Paradie by six votes. Following a recount, the tally remained the same.
In Lewiston, the last recount occurred in 2015 during a School Committee race between Jim Handy and Ben Martin. Handy requested the recount after losing by 23 votes, and he gained only a single vote in the recount.
Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said Thursday that the voting machines used in polling locations are very accurate, but that issues causing a vote to change or be discounted can happen in a few ways.
Errors can sometimes come from what are known as “auxiliary ballots,” which is a ballot that has a tear or fold that prevents it from being inserted in the machine. When that happens, the ballot is instead hand-counted. These, however, are rare as well.
“In Lewiston on Tuesday, we only had seven ballots in this category in the entire city, out of 10,000-plus ballots cast,” she said.
Possible mistakes could occur when these ballots are hand-tallied, but Montejo said it’s rare because the tallying is done by three people: the ward clerk, one Democratic worker and one Republican worker.
Another possibility, she said, is that ballots from voters “are not marked in a manner consistent with the ballot instructions.” This means if a voter didn’t fill in the oval correctly next to the name of the candidate. When that happens, the clerk must look for “voter intent,” which is defined by the state.
“For voter intent, you need to be looking to see how the voter marked their ballot — did they circle the name of the candidate instead of filling in the oval? Is it clear who the voter wanted to vote for?” she said.
‘Every single one’
Clements-Dallaire said that during the 2014 recount in Auburn, there were no “disputed” ballots, which is usually when either side questions the intent of a voter or the mark made on the ballot.
The volunteers for both candidates will be counting thousands more ballots during this recount, however.
On Tuesday, 7,693 ballots were cast in Auburn. Among the votes for each candidate, there were 49 write-ins and 404 blanks.
“We’ll be hand-counting all of those ballots,” she said, “every single one.”
Auburn mayoral candidate Adam Lee checks his email as he keeps a running tally on a napkin on the second floor of Auburn Hall on Tuesday night as election results start to come in. He announced Thursday he has requested a recount after losing by six votes. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)