Maine Senate votes to seat Manchester over Breen as ballot dispute continues

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AUGUSTA — Despite an ongoing debate about the results of the election in Maine Senate District 25, majority Republicans in the Senate overwhelmed Democratic opposition to provisionally seat GOP candidate Cathy Manchester on Wednesday morning.

Manchester’s opponent, Democrat Cathy Breen, was declared the victor by a 32-vote margin in an initial tally of votes after Election Day, prompting Manchester to request a recount. After the recount was conducted on Nov. 18, the result flipped, with GOP candidate appearing to have won by 11 votes.

However, questions have been raised by Democrats, including Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, about so-called “phantom ballots” from the District 25 town of Long Island. On the evening of the recount, 21 new Long Island ballots were discovered, all of which contained votes for Manchester. However, none of those ballots were accounted for on election night voter lists from the town, nor could they be traced to any actual voter.

Republicans have dismissed the irregularity as a normal part of ballot recounts, but Democrats still contest the result and have raised the specter of voter fraud, and called for a thorough investigation.

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Dunlap had recommended that Breen be provisionally seated, citing precedent that has seen Election Day winners of contested races take temporary office until the matter is resolved.

The Senate voted Wednesday on party lines, 20-14, to seat Manchester, who temporarily gives the GOP a seven-seat majority. She will hold the seat until the Senate makes a final decision on the contested race, pending the investigation by a special committee of four Republicans and three Democrats, which is scheduled to hold its first meeting later on Wednesday.

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