A veteran Gorham councilor unseated in November is questioning what he called irregularities in the town’s election procedures, and is asking for a second look from the state at how the town ran that election.

“The question is, we have a result based on machine tallies that were never tested properly,” Norman Justice said Tuesday.

In a flurry of letters, Justice sent his request for a review of town election procedures to the Town Council, Town Manager David Cole and the secretary of state’s office, to which Gorham’s Town Clerk Christina Silberman responded with her own letter to all three parties. The council is also asking the state to look into the matter.

At issue, all sides agree, is the integrity of Gorham’s voting process, not the outcome of the election.

Justice, 54, who was Town Council chairman and a town councilor 15 years, narrowly lost his seat to Matt Robinson, 1,182-1,177, in an eight-way race for three Town Council seats in the election Nov. 6. In the recount he requested, Justice lost three votes, with a recount tally of 1,174. The Town Council declared Robinson the election winner.

“The purpose of my letter is meant in no way to revisit the outcome of the election, but to bring to your attention the irregularities in the election process,” Justice wrote in his Jan. 3 letter.

In his letter, Justice claimed the ballot-counting machines hadn’t been tested before the election in accordance with requirements. Justice, referring to sworn testimony by Silberman on recount day, Nov. 29, said all four memory cards were tested in just one voting machine instead of four. He also said machine tallies were not compared to a hand count for verification of accuracy in the pre-election test, and that memory cards weren’t sealed in the voting machines during the election. Memory cards record the individual votes.

Silberman, who was under oath on the day of the recount, said Tuesday she made an error when questioned by Justice that day. While she said then that the memory cards were tested in one machine, she said Tuesday that each machine was, in fact, tested with its memory card in place and they remained in the voting machines at each of the four polling places.

“We did test each and every machine,” Silberman said Tuesday.

But, Silberman said, there is no requirement that memory cards be sealed in the machines. She said the procedure isn’t included in the state’s election training instructions.

Silberman did say Tuesday that manual tally sheets should have been done before the election.

“We forgot to do the hand tally,” Silberman said, but she added that a hand tally was done prior to the recount.

Burleigh Loveitt, chairman of the Gorham Town Council, was preparing a letter Tuesday to the secretary of state’s office. Loveitt is asking the state to review Gorham’s election process and offer an opinion.

“Our position is we are very concerned about the integrity of the voting process,” Loveitt said. “Any question causes us great concern.”

Julie Flynn, deputy secretary of state, said Tuesday that she would review Gorham’s election process at a town request and issue a letter. But, she said, her office doesn’t have jurisdiction over municipal elections. Flynn has talked with Silberman and received the letters from both Silberman and Justice.

“I want to follow up with Mr. Justice,” Flynn said.

The recount process also disappointed Justice. He had asked that the ballots be hand counted and provided a list of municipalities that had recounted by hand in the past. Justice said Tuesday he is troubled that his request was denied by Silberman. He was accompanied at the recount by his wife, Tody Justice, Scarborough town clerk.

The decision regarding the method of a recount rested with Silberman, who followed advice of town attorney Bill Dale. Dale , who oversaw the recount, recommended electronic recounts in two separate machines and a hand count in the case of discrepancy.

In the recount, one ballot from Ward 2 was read as a blank by one machine and as a vote for another candidate on the second machine, according to the letter from Silberman. But, Silberman said, the ballot didn’t affect either Justice or Robinson.

Justice said not having a hand count of ballots was a disservice to all voters, although he said it was unlikely to have changed the outcome.

“A hand recount would have provided more certainty in my mind,” Justice said.

Justice said Tuesday a state ballot was found among local ballots during an inspection of ballots prior to the recount. Justice believed that someone’s vote hadn’t been counted.

Silberman said she could verify by a tally sheet that it was counted. But, she said, it was packed away mistakenly mixed in with local ballots.

Justice said he has left the matter in the hands of the council.

“I want to be assured as a voter that Gorham is following proper procedures,” Justice said.

Flynn will talk with all parties about the election.

“I don’t think (voters) should feel the election was compromised,” Flynn said.

Letter submitted to the American Journal by Christina Silberman

January 11, 2008

Julie Flynn, Deputy Secretary of State

Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions

101 State House Station

Augusta, Maine 04333

Dear Julie,

Thank you for speaking with me Wednesday morning regarding the letter that was sent to you from former Gorham Town Councilor Norman E. Justice, Jr. I was not aware of this letter until very late in the day on January 8th. It is unfortunate that Mr. & Mrs. Justice did not feel that they could

address their concerns with me directly as some of their issues are easily explained.

As I stated to you, I take full responsibility for any errors made during the conduct of the recent election. I have the utmost respect for the

election process and I strive to ensure that all procedures and laws are adhered to. I invite you to speak with any and all members of my staff

regarding my integrity and my desire to adhere to all rules and regulations.

Mr. Justice indicated that I stated in my sworn testimony that all of the memory cards were tested in one machine. I was mistaken in my testimony.

The machine testing was primarily conducted by Deputy Town Clerk, Jennifer Elliott. Jennifer was not present during the recount. Jennifer reminded

me that each machine was tested individually and thinking back, I do recall that they were as all four machines were plugged in to charge in my

office overnight prior to the testing. The spare memory card was tested only in one machine. This card was not used on Election Day. The other

four cards were left in their respective machines after the testing was completed. Mr. Justice?s letter refers to a requirement that the memory

cards be sealed into the machines after testing. As you indicated to me, there is currently no state requirement that this be done and this is not

mentioned in any of the instructions provided by the state. I also reviewed the vendor?s instructions and there is no reference to the memory card being sealed into the machine. I have never received any training to complete this step. After speaking with you, I understand that this step is a good idea. I will be certain to do this in all future elections. I did seal the memory card for the machine used for the early processing of

the absentee ballots with one of the seals provided for use with the blue boxes, as directed by state instructions. I readily admitted that a hand tally sheet was forgotten for the test ballots. A tally sheet was completed for the test ballots at the recount and agreed with the test results that were printed from the machine. Hand tally sheets will always be completed in the future.

Mr. Justice also refers to a state ballot that was found mixed in with the local ballots during the recount and he assumes that the ballot was not

counted. I do not recall Mr. Justice ever asking me to verify whether or not this ballot was counted. Indeed it was counted and I would be happy

to send you a copy of the tally sheet showing that it was hand counted. No voter was disenfranchised and the voter?s intent was indeed upheld.

I do provide training sessions prior to all Elections. Written material as well as the state instruction sheets are reviewed verbally during

training and distributed to Election Workers. I would be happy to provide you with a copy of the material provided to the Election Workers. As I

stated to you, Gorham has four polling places and I can not be in all four places at once. Mr. Justice stated that the write in and blank ballot

counts from the tape were not matched with the ballots. Workers are instructed to do this. My staff and I did match up these counts during

the inspection process. I created labels to use on the boxes of ballots when the polls were closed. In one instance, a label for ?unused local

ballots? was used on a box of ?voted local ballots?. This was discovered and corrected during the recount. I attribute this to human error. I do

not know what Mr. Justice means when he refers to ?required paperwork was not completed? in his fifth bulleted item so I can not answer to this.

Closing procedures are covered during training and I will focus more on closing procedures during future training sessions to try to ensure that

things are done properly.

Mr. Justice was very disappointed that I did not do a hand count recount. I was advised by the Town Attorney to use the Accuvote machines for the

recount and I was advised by the Town Manager to follow the Town Attorney?s advice. I also felt it important to use the machines for the

recount because the Town of Gorham is a machine town and therefore results are determined by the machines. In an effort to appease Mr. Justice, I

agreed to run the ballots through two different machines. This did prove to be an issue because in Ward 2 a vote was read as a blank on one machine and as a vote for a candidate on another machine. This vote did not affect votes for either candidate present at the recount. As I am sure

you would agree, rarely do results during a recount agree exactly with the

results from Election Day.

I agree that a typo was made in the election results that I reported on the town website the night of the Election. These results were clearly

labeled as “Unofficial Results”. On another posting, a digit was dropped from the electronic version posted on the website and this was corrected when I was notified of the error.

I invite you to come and inspect any of my election materials.

Please let me know if you would like anything further from me regarding

this matter.

Sincerely,

Christina A. Silberman

Town Clerk

To read a copy of the letter from Norman Justice, click here.

Questions dog Gorham electionQuestions dog Gorham electionGorham Town Clerk Christina Silberman talks with former Gorham Town Council Chairman Norm Justice, right) during the election recount.


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