Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap will not investigate concerns raised by the Maine Republican Party that voters in as many as four towns believe they were given the wrong ballots when they voted in November.

Kristen Muszynski, the spokeswoman for Dunlap, a Democrat, said Friday that his office has seen no evidence to support claims that voters in the 1st Congressional District were given ballots for the 2nd Congressional District race.

Muszynski questioned whether a Republican Party news release with signed affidavits by 17 midcoast voters was an attempt to use the media “to sow unfounded doubt amongst voters, which undermines the entire electoral process.”

Jason Savage, the party’s executive director, said Friday the party wasn’t asking for an investigation, but the voters who filed the sworn statements wanted answers. He called for Dunlap to unseal ballot boxes in the towns in question so a review of ballots could determine whether the voters are remembering correctly what they swear they saw on Election Day.

“Our understanding is that several of the voters have requested an investigation already,” Savage said in an email. “Realistically, what they want is for the boxes to be opened with witnesses present to examine the ballots. It’s not like anyone is calling to impanel a grand jury here, just look into this so people can have answers.”

The party released a sheaf of sworn statements on Thursday from 17 voters — several of them related — in Boothbay Harbor, Boothbay, Edgecomb and Trevett. The voters say they believe they turned in ballots for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District election, which pitted incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin against three challengers: Democrat Jared Golden and independents Tiffany Bond and William Hoar.

But Muszynski has said that two of the four towns in question used tabulation machines that would have rejected any ballots that were not approved for the municipality. She said the two other towns hand count their ballots, and the clerks in those towns did not see any ballots from the 2nd Congressional District.

“To reiterate, ballots from out of district cannot be counted, even in the very rare instance that a voter was mistakenly issued such a ballot, and we have no evidence that any such ballots were actually issued, so our office is not authorizing a review of the ballots,” Muszynski said.

She said it is likely that the voters in question, “are mis-remembering” their ballots and may have been influenced by the abundance of political advertising that aired statewide around the 2nd District Congressional race.

Charles House of Boothbay, one of the voters who signed a sworn statement that he got a 2nd District ballot, said Friday he’s not trying to cast any aspersion on the election. House, a Republican, said other members of his family also believe they had a 2nd District ballot, and he’s mostly interested in finding out the truth.

He said he was disappointed that Dunlap wouldn’t authorize an inspection of the ballots in Boothbay.

“It would probably only take an hour to open up the box and look through them, just to make sure, just to find out for sure,” House said.

Pamela Mancuso of Boothbay said Friday she collected some of the affidavits from voters and turned them over to the Republican Party and to “Poliquin’s people.” Mancuso also said her own ballot was correct and did not list Poliquin, but she believes those who say theirs did.

“I do believe them because I know the people and I know they are sincere and credible people,” Mancuso said.

Dunlap’s office is conducting a recount of the 2nd District election at Poliquin’s request, and a federal judge in Bangor is expected to rule by the end of next week on a lawsuit filed by Poliquin and three other voters who hope to have the election results overturned or a new election called for.

Savage’s announcement Thursday calling attention to voters who said they cast an improper ballot is the latest in a series of efforts by the Republican Party or its elected officials to cast doubts on the state’s election systems and voting practices.

Starting in 2011, former Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster and later Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers pushed for a repeal of Maine’s same-day voter registration law, which had been in place for nearly 40 years.

Webster claimed the law was allowing Democrats to steal elections by registering college students in droves and busing them to the polls on Election Day so they could tip the scales. He never produced any evidence.

The repeal effort was passed by the Legislature, which was then controlled by Republicans, and signed into law by Republican Gov. Paul LePage. A few months later, voters overturned the repeal at the ballot box, with supporters pointing to same-day registration as one of the reasons Maine has among the highest rates of voter turnout in the nation.

LePage has also planted doubts about Maine’s voting system — even after winning statewide election twice.

In 2016 he pushed for a law requiring photo identification to vote, telling a radio talk show host that he wasn’t confident the state had conducted a “clean election.” The comment echoed those of President Donald Trump, who has claimed that the 2016 presidential elections were “rigged.”

After the 2016 balloting, LePage again took aim at the state’s election system, saying that Dunlap, the secretary of state, could not “guarantee with 100 percent certainty that no noncitizens voted in the election. He cannot guarantee that no college students voted both in Maine and their home state. He cannot guarantee someone did not vote in both the town they previously lived in and the town they now reside in.”

Dunlap has repeatedly rebuffed Republican charges of voter fraud and other allegations of polling place chicanery, assuring Mainers their voting system was secure and challenging LePage or others to produce actual evidence of fraud.

“If Gov. LePage or any other party has evidence of attempts at voter fraud or other malfeasance related to the election, we encourage them to come forward with that information so those instances can be investigated,” Dunlap once said. “The citizens of Maine can be fully confident that their votes are counted accurately and the results reflect the will of the voters.”

Muszynski, the spokeswoman for Dunlap, noted that voters can have trouble recalling the details of their ballots. She said Dunlap’s office had been contacted after the Nov. 6 election by one couple who voted absentee and were certain that they cast ranked-choice ballots for governor — even though ranked choice was not used in that race.

“They had voted early by absentee, so the clerk was able to show them their own ballots to prove to them that the race was, in fact, a plurality race,” Muszynski said.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap talks to reporters Thursday in the Elkins Building in Augusta. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)


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