AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- One day after the confusing state Senate recount was finally settled, Maine's Secretary of State said his department needs to make changes in the way it handle future recounts.
On Tuesday, a special Senate committee discovered that 21 so-called "mystery ballots" from Long Island that had appeared during the recount of the District 25 Senate race, didn't really exist. Instead, there had been a mistake during the recount and those 21 ballots from Long Island had been accidentally counted twice. All the ballots were for the Republican candidate, Cathy Manchester, who was declared the recount winner. After the mistake was discovered and the vote total corrected, Democrat Cathy Breen emerged as the winner.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said no one at the first recount suspected there was anything wrong with the numbers, so they didn't think there was a need to re-check the Long Island ballots at that time.
"It didn't raise a red flag," said Dunlap. "Our assumption was they had been sorting (the ballots) election night and hadn't finished counting them."
It turned out a pile of Manchester ballots had been counted, then mistakenly added to another batch of ballots and counted again.
"The town of Long Island got it perfect," Dunlap said. "We didn't, and that's why we're a little mortified about this because the recount is supposed to uncover errors not create them."
Dunlap said the department will make changes to election rules to require additional recounts in cases where a significant number of previously uncounted ballots appear. He said they will also review handling procedures for the special metal and plastic seals that are attached to ballot storage boxes as part of the mandatory security procedure. Questions about the seals were raised at Tuesday's session with the Senate committee.
Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta), who chaired the committee, said that he also wants to see some changes to the recount procedures to prevent a similar mistake from happening again. Katz said he thinks people in the Legislature and the State Department all need to take some time to think about how the problem occurred, and then figure out what changes are needed.