March 16, 2010

Voters award 2 Democrats a surprise: tieThis is a 6-column headyne for dummy type

By TESS NACELEWICZ Staff Writer

— By TESS NACELEWICZ

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Melissa Walsh Inness, House District 107 candidate

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Kimberly A. McLaughlin of Yarmouth, candidate for the House District 107 seat

Staff Writer

YARMOUTH — Melissa Walsh Innes and Kimberly McLaughlin each expected one of them would win the Democratic nomination for the House District 107 seat Tuesday. It was a two-person race.

What they didn't expect was what happened: Yarmouth voters awarded each candidate exactly the same number of votes. Unofficial returns show each woman received 485.

''I was surprised,'' Innes said Wednesday. ''You plan for the win, you plan for not winning, but you don't plan for the tie.''

McLaughlin expressed similar sentiments. ''I'm shocked,'' she said. ''Quite stunned.''

Now the state is expected to conduct a recount of the vote, probably late next week. If the recount shows the vote count was correct, it will be up to Maine's Secretary of State to break the tie -- probably by picking one of the two candidates' names out of a hat.

A tie vote in a race for the Legislature is rare in Maine. Julie Flynn, deputy secretary of state, said she can't recall another tie in the 13 years she's worked in state elections.

The seat represents the town of Yarmouth. The Democratic winner will face Republican Brian Bicknell in the November general election.

Under current state law, Maine State Police must take into custody the ballots of any election contest in which the margin of votes between the first- and second-place candidate is less than 1 percent of the total votes cast in the race. Police are expected to pick up the Yarmouth ballots on Thursday, said Town Clerk Jennifer Doten.

The next step will be a recount. Both McLaughlin, 43, the owner of a financial services company, and Innes, 37, an educational technician for the Yarmouth schools, said Wednesday that they want the votes counted again to ensure the will of voters is honored.

A recount can be requested within five business days after an election. Innes said Wednesday afternoon that she expected to send a written request to the state by today.

The earliest a recount could be scheduled would be June 19, Flynn said.

Should the recount show that the race is still a tie, state law says the Secretary of State shall arrange to have both candidates come to his office, at which time he ''shall select the nominee publicly by lot.''

Flynn said the law doesn't specify how that should happen but said it probably wouldn't be a coin toss. She said it would most likely involve ''putting the two names of the candidates on pieces of paper and in some sort of bowl or hat or some sort of container and drawing the winner out.''

Neil Shankman, a Yarmouth lawyer who is chairman of the Yarmouth Democratic Committee, supports the recount, saying computerized ballot-counting machines can misread ballots that aren't filled out clearly. The committee had endorsed McLaughlin as the ''ideal choice'' for the seat, Shankman said.

He said the race illustrates ''what we all tell our children, and our parents and our friends: Every vote counts.''

Staff Writer Tess Nacelewicz can be contacted at 791-6367 or at:

tnacelewicz@pressherald.com

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