UPDATED: Recount planned in Wiscasset

Posted:  Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - 3:00pm

Wiscasset town meeting moderator Susan Blagden told the Wiscasset Newspaper late Wednesday afternoon, she has decided to hold a recount of the June 13 ballots. It has not been scheduled yet, Blagden said.

Original post: The public should not have been kept from viewing Wiscasset’s ballot-counting June 13, moderator Susan Blagden said in a phone interview June 14. People are supposed to be able to watch, and they will be, anytime she moderates again, Blagden said.

The doors were closed shortly after the polls closed Tuesday night and remained closed during the two-hour count, except when election workers and Wiscasset Community Center staff went in and out.

“It’s on me,” Blagden said about the counting being closed to public view. It shouldn’t have happened, she said. “I knew it was the law, and I just forgot.”

She said she was on the other side of the room, when “It was very noisy,” and then a ballot clerk, Belinda Haggett, told members of the public to leave the room then closed the doors when they left. Haggett later said she asked people to go into the next room due to the noise, but did not close the doors.

According to legislature.maine.gov, Title 21-A, Section 695 states in part: “The ballots must be counted publicly so that those present may observe the proceedings.”

Town Manager Marian Anderson and a Wiscasset Newspaper reporter were among those entering the room and taking seats around a table when the group was told to leave the room. Anderson on June 14 wrote to Maine Municipal Association describing the incident and asking if it was legal. On Wednesday afternoon, June 14, Richard Flewelling, assistant director of MMA’s legal services department, wrote back.

Flewelling wrote in the email response: “In light of the statute, in view of the closed-door count last night, and in the interest of public transparency, I recommend that the Warden/Moderator of yesterday’s election, on his or her own initiative and as soon as possible (ideally within 24 hours after the polls were closed), announce that the ballots will be counted again, in public, as required by law. This announcement should be publicized in as many venues as practicably available, including the town’s website. Also, if those present but excluded from last night’s count can be identified, I strongly recommend that a special effort be made to notify them personally of the new count. If the new count results in any change in votes, a corrected return should be completed.”

Anderson forwarded MMA’s email to newspapers. The Wiscasset Newspaper has written back, asking if a recount was going to be scheduled, based on MMA’s recommendation.

Earlier in the day, the newspaper asked if anyone or any entity had asked for a recount of the June 13 elections or warrant articles “for this or any other reason.” Anderson replied, the town had not gotten any recount requests. She added, “The Town’s plan is to address all election day issues during the next ballot clerk training. The Clerk typically holds this annually.” That email exchange came before Anderson had heard back from MMA.