BOOTHBAY — Scores of residents from three coastal towns claim the ballot they used on Election Day included a congressional race from a different district.
It’s either mass delusion or one whopper of an Election Day mistake.
Daniel Bates of Boothbay said Thursday his memory “is somewhat fuzzy,” but he is pretty convinced that when he went to the polls Nov. 6, he cast his vote for Republican congressional contender Bruce Poliquin, a two-term incumbent.
The problem is that Boothbay and the other two towns where some residents believe their ballots were wrong are in the 1st District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree. Poliquin lost his re-election bid in the 2nd District to Democrat Jared Golden.
Stephanie Hawke, who lost a Maine House race in Boothbay, said she’s heard from more than 100 people who are convinced their ballots included the Poliquin-Golden race despite the reality that the towns aren’t in District 2.
“There’s no way that could have happened,” Boothbay Town Clerk Lynn Maloney told the Sun Journal on Thursday.
“It’s impossible,” said Julie Flynn, who heads the Election Division of the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.
The state Republican Party jumped on the issue Thursday with a news release that included affidavits from 17 voters in the towns insisting that Poliquin and Golden were on their ballots.
“Clearly, there is a problem we need to get to the bottom of here,” Jason Savage, the Maine GOP’s executive director, said in the release.
“When the wrong candidates are showing up on ballots far outside their district, apparently in significant numbers, we need an investigation,” Savage said.
Maine Democrats said they’d heard nothing about any ballot errors or from anyone in those towns who thinks they may have voted for Golden outside his district.
Paula Arsenault, the chairwoman of the Boothbay Democrats, said she’s heard nothing about a mistake on the ballot. She said hers listed only the 1st District candidates and she cast her vote for Pingree.
She said it’s hard to believe so many Republicans are claiming Poliquin was on the ballot in her town.
Given the GOP’s ongoing challenge to votes cast this year, Arsenault said, “The craziness just won’t stop. They’re just having a real hard time with reality.”
Ballots used on Election Day in the towns where questions have been raised — which also include Edgecomb and Boothbay Harbor — are sealed and off limits to everyone unless an investigation is held.
Flynn said in a written statement to the town clerks in Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor that memory sticks for the counting machines at the polls “were programmed and tested to only accept the ballot style for your municipality” in the 1st District.
Even if the printing contractor “had mistakenly included a different ballot style with your ballots,” she said, the tabulator wouldn’t accept it and wouldn’t be able to read it.
She said that printing errors can happen, but if they did, the machines used to tabulate the count “would have given an error message on the screen and required the ballot to be returned.”
Boothbay clerk Maloney said nobody questioned the alleged presence of the Poliquin-Golden race on the ballot on Election Day itself. All of the complaints came later.
Barbara and Charles House of Boothbay said the issue arose when they talked about voting in the evening on Election Day. They said they both thought that Poliquin and Golden were on their ballots — as well as Pingree’s 1st District race — and when they asked family members in town, two of three others agreed that happened on their ballots as well.
“Four out of five of us remembered voting to the best of our knowledge for Bruce Poliquin,” she said.
Daniel House said he is “nearly 100 percent sure that (Poliquin) was on there.”
With so many people recalling the same issue, he said, “it seems odd” that they would all be wrong.
Derek Joannides of Boothbay said he definitely had a ranked-choice ballot at the polls. He said he remembers picking Poliquin first and Golden last.
He said he didn’t think they should have been on his ballot, but he wasn’t positive so he just voted and moved on.
“Something should be revoted,” Joannides said. “I mean, who knows what other districts voted and were wrong, too.”
Hawke, who lost her House seat, said she voted that day, but because her brother had just died, she was in a daze and barely remembers anything about going to the polls.
Since then, however, the Republican said she has been hearing from two or three people daily who ask her about Poliquin’s name on the ballot.
Hawke said it seemed crazy to her that the ballots could be wrong, but she’s come to realize that absentee voters don’t seem to have had any issues, only people who actually went to the polls.
She said she finds it hard to believe that so many people could be off the mark.
Citing the complaints on Facebook, Poliquin said, “This is very concerning.”
Arsenault said the entire issue is discouraging.
“It just really speaks to me about how people are so woefully uneducated and in the dark,” she said.
Hawke said that given all the hoopla, she’d like to see the state take a look at the disputed ballots and find out whether the 2nd District race showed up on any of them somehow.
“Voting is so sacred in the United States, and if you lose that, who’s going to run and who’s going to vote if it doesn’t matter?” she asked.
“I hope everybody’s wrong, but if they’re not wrong, I hope somebody does something about it,” Hawke said.
Ballots are prepared for recounting in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District on Thursday in Augusta. The recount was requested by outgoing U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin after he lost a November ranked-choice race to Rep.-elect Jared Golden. (Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty)
Affidavit filed by Boothbay resident Barbara House about ballots on Election Day mistakenly including Bruce Poliquin, a congressional candidate in another district.