Independent candidate Eliot Cutler’s ambiguous remarks Wednesday about how his supporters should vote for governor are creating confusion and could lead to disappointment for voters who already have cast absentee ballots, said Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

“It’s left some of his supporters in a strange quandary, but that’s for his campaign to figure out,” Dunlap, a Democrat, said Wednesday.

More than 75,000 Mainers already have submitted absentee ballots, according to Dunlap’s office. If Cutler had formally withdrawn from the race, that would have invalidated the ballots that were cast for him, giving his supporters another chance to vote at the polls Tuesday for either Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud or Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

But because Cutler did not officially withdraw, the absentee ballots cast for him still count – even as he tells his supporters that if they think he can’t win and feel compelled to do so, they should vote for another candidate.

Dunlap said an official withdrawal would be a logistical quagmire for town clerks across Maine. There wouldn’t be enough time to remove Cutler’s name from ballots, but he’d no longer be an official candidate. Early absentee votes cast for him would not count, and voters could ask their town clerks to invalidate their early ballots so they could vote again.

In the 2010 race for governor, when Cutler made a late surge to overtake Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell and close in on LePage, the independent’s campaign encouraged early absentee voters to invalidate their ballots and vote again on Election Day.

“If you know anyone who has already voted and now wants to vote for Eliot, they should fill out the attached form and go to their town hall immediately,” a 2010 news release by Cutler’s campaign said.

But that option isn’t available this year, Dunlap said. The 2010 election, and its impact on town clerks, prompted the Legislature to change the election law in 2011.

“You can’t change your vote now just because you’ve changed your mind,” Dunlap said. “Wanting to change your vote is no longer a suitable reason for requesting a second ballot.”

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

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Twitter: @stevemistler


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