State and local election officials are in a time crunch to get ready for a statewide vote on Gov. John Baldacci’s $60 million economic development package.

State election officials have had to rush the printing of the ballot questions in time for the statewide vote on June 10. Thanks to the time crunch, those ballots will have to be counted by hand.

Meanwhile, local election officials are scrambling to line up polling places for the special election.

“In Lewiston, many of the polling places we use are private,” Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said. “We can’t just call them up and say ‘We’re coming!’ They could have other events planned this late in the year.”

The bond issue is part of the budget package approved by the Legislature April 18. It seeks to raise $20 million for a biomedical research fund and $17 million more for other research and development initiatives. Another $8 million would be earmarked for affordable housing, with $6 million going to a municipal investment trust fund. A total of $4 million would go toward marine research, $3 million toward agriculture and $2 million for applied technology development centers in South Portland, Fairfield, Rumford and Greenville.

The Secretary of State’s office received the final version of the ballot question last Friday.

“We don’t have time in the schedule to print the machine-ballots,” said Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn. “That’s a much more precise job, and it takes a certain amount of time to get them cut and printed. These ballots absolutely have to be ready to go out on May 9, and we didn’t have time to prepare machine ballots.”

More than two-thirds of Maine voters live in districts that count ballots by machine. That allows election judges to press a button at the end of the day to get the tally.

For this election, judges will have to sort the ballots by hand and triple count them.

Montejo said that won’t be a problem for Lewiston.

“There’s only one question, so this is a pretty straightforward process,” Montejo said. “It’s just a matter of sorting the ballots into ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ piles and counting.”

Auburn City Clerk Mary Lou Magno said she would have left the ballot counting machines packed away anyway.

“It doesn’t make sense for a one-question ballot like this,” Magno said. “You don’t need the machine to keep track of something so simple and easy to count.”

Montejo said she is keeping her eyes on a plan before the Legislature that would allow cities to consolidate their polling places for special elections. The plan was tabled in the House of Representatives April 16 and is scheduled to come up next week. It would let cities like Lewiston direct all voters to one place – the Memorial Armory in Lewiston’s case – rather than having to staff all of its precincts with election judges.

Lewiston voters have 12 different polling places throughout the city, and six of them are private property that might not be available on short notice.

“It’s mostly a matter of logistics for us,” Montejo said. “We could be having to line up several different polling places that voters would be unfamiliar with. It would be much easier to send them all to one place.”


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