The discovery on Long Island of 21 uncounted ballots in the Senate District 25 race, all of which were cast for the recount winner, Republican Cathy Manchester, smells fishy, even on an island.

One of two things has to happen to put the matter to rest. Either the state Attorney General or the U.S. Attorney can conduct a thorough criminal investigation of the discrepancy. Or the investigation can be punted to the Senate, which has the constitutional authority to determine whom to seat.

But the Senate’s authority does not absolve state or federal prosecutors from doing their own jobs.

Legislatures typically make political decisions, as with bills and nominations. The majority party usually wins. But sometimes, a legislature must act in a quasi-judicial role, which is not easy.

I was counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in an impeachment case concerning removal of a federal judge for alleged conspiracy to commit bribery. The case came to the committee with complete documentation from all previous investigations. Nevertheless, the panel conducted its own investigation before presenting its case to the House and then to the Senate. The judge was convicted.

Frankly, the Senate doesn’t have the resources, expertise or maybe even the will to follow this model. That’s why we should leave it to professional prosecutors. The Senate can seat whom it wants, but whether that decision stands or is set aside by the courts would very likely hinge on the outcome of a professional inquiry.

Rep. Janice Cooper

House District 107 Yarmouth, Long Island, Chebeague Island