February 16, 2012

UPDATED: Maine GOP recounting caucus votes

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The Maine Republican Party is recounting the results of its presidential caucuses and may add the votes to be cast in Washington County this weekend to the official totals, its chairman said Thursday.

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Mitt Romney, left, was declared the winner of the Maine caucuses by a small margin, but supporters of Ron Paul, right, allege bias.

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Mitt Romney was declared the winner on Saturday, leading Ron Paul by 194 votes out of 5,585 cast, according to the official results at the time.

But the numbers did not include Washington County’s caucuses, which were postponed until this Saturday because of a snowstorm.

In addition, the vote totals from several communities, including Waterville and much of Waldo County, were left out of the official count because of clerical or computer errors. Some other communities’ vote totals were entered incorrectly.

Party leaders around the state have been getting calls since then from members who are angry about the handling of the vote, which drew national attention to Maine’s usually low-profile caucuses.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said he called a meeting of the party’s executive committee Thursday in response to pressure from frustrated party members who wanted all votes counted.

“All Republicans are keenly aware of the intense interest in the results of the Maine Republican Party Presidential Preference Poll,” Webster said in a written statement.

The executive committee recommended adding Washington County’s votes to the official count, but left the final decision to the full state committee, which is scheduled to meet March 10.

Webster said in an interview late Thursday that the results from the rest of Maine should be corrected and updated on the state GOP website by sometime today. That will make it easy for Republicans and others to see whether the votes in Washington County could change the outcome.

“We’ve been checking and calling and making them all accurate” before posting corrected numbers, Webster said. “We just want to make sure (party members) see their vote is counted.”

An email that went to the party’s county and town chairmen Thursday afternoon asks the local officials to resubmit vote totals to state headquarters.

“We are confirming the totals from the presidential preference straw poll,” the email says. “Can you please email me the totals from your towns?”

“The results of the Washington County caucus will be reviewed at the March 10 Republican State Committee Meeting,” Webster said in his written statement. “The Executive Committee voted unanimously to recommend to the State Committee that they include the (Washington County) results in the final tally for the Presidential Preference Poll as their caucus had been scheduled to occur by the February 11 deadline, however it was postponed due to inclement weather.”

Kim Pettengill, a state GOP committee member from Kennebec County, said she has been getting calls and emails from angry party members, in part because Waterville’s vote totals still have not been added to the official totals posted by the party.

“The idea that they’ve allowed incorrect numbers to be on the website for four days is unacceptable to me,” she said.

Maine’s caucuses became a national story when both Romney and Paul campaigned in Maine, even visiting the same caucus in Sanford on Saturday. Romney was looking to stop a three-state losing streak, and Paul was hoping to win his first state.

Maine’s caucus vote is typically an afterthought. The vote is a non-binding poll of the people who attend caucuses. Republican convention delegates will decide in May who to support, although they generally follow the wishes of the party’s members.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

jrichardson@mainetoday.com

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