The 1992 ballot fraud scandal unfolded over several months and involved a former aide to then Democratic House Speaker John Martin.

The 1992 ballot fraud scandal unfolded over several months and involved a former aide to then Democratic House Speaker John Martin.

* There will be several more days of discussion over mystery ballots in the Senate District 25 contest between Democratic candidate Cathy Breen and Republican Cathy Manchester. Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett slammed Democrats for “dishonestly attacking the election process and, apparently, the Maine State Police, by falsely raising the specter of ‘fraud.’ ” Later, the Maine Democratic Party announced that it will hold press conference at the State House at 3 p.m.

As we look ahead to more claims and counterclaims by the parties, it’s helpful to look back to 1992 when claims of election fraud turned out to be very real. That case, which involved an aide to then Democratic House Speaker John Martin, prompted a series of changes to the chain of custody process for ballots, the details of which are outlined here.

The whole 1992 saga is also captured in full detail in a massive three-ring binder in the Law and Legislative Reference Library.

It is amazing.

The story begins with Republican candidates in several races highlighting a number of peculiarities. Then came the recount in the former House District 82 contest between Democrat Rita Melendy and Republican Clayton Fowles. Election officials  with the Secretary of State halted the recount when they discovered that more than 600 ballots were missing. That’s right, missing.

In those days, recount ballots were held in Room 120 of what’s now known as the Cross Building (Ballots are now secured in a room at the Maine State Police barracks). The room is right down the hall from the State House press corps and has since been converted into a supply closet of sorts.

How did the ballots go missing? Nobody knew. However, reports began surfacing of an unlatched window in the recount room. Also, when a state employee entered the room the night of the heist, he smelled cigarette smoke and heard “some kind of a voice or thump in the back of the room.”

So began the long and spectacular probe into the botched attempt to rig two legislative elections by Kenneth Allen, a former aide to Martin, and his co-conspirator Michael Flood, a Democratic ballot counter involved in one of the recounts. Allen, a noted chain smoker, was sentenced in 1993 to concurrent terms of three years in prison for burglary, but all but 25 days were suspended. Flood also got off pretty easy after he pled guilty to burglary and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

“It’s a sad situation,” said former Secretary of State Bill Diamond in a 1992 interview with the Portland Press Herald. “It puts a cloud over everything. The trust we’ve had in the system has been broken.”

Said former Democratic state Rep. Donnell Carroll, of Gray, “It just adds one nail to the lid on (Martin’s) coffin.”

Martin was never implicated in the scandal. However, he eventually resigned as House Speaker. But the death of his political career turned out to be premature. Martin is back for his 24th term in the Legislature.

Spotted in the Senate chamber on Monday: Manchester and Breen, the contestants in the disputed Senate District 25 race, who were both here for orientation events.

One of the two will be provisionally seated on Wednesday, when the 127th Legislature is sworn in. Or maybe neither will.

In 1977, Republican Richard Hewes and Democrat Marietta Burrows were also involved in a recount dispute. Both declined to be provisionally seated and Burrows later withdrew her challenge.

That wasn’t the case in 2002, when Democrat Christopher Hall and Republican Leslie Fossel also tangled in a recount dispute. Democrats controlled the Senate by one seat and voted to seat Hall before the Senatorial Election Committee evaluated the recount. There was a healthy floor debate over the seating decision between former state Sen. Sharon Treat, of Hallowell, and Sen. Paul Davis, of Sangerville.

“This recount has consumed us,” said Davis, according to the legislative record. “Seating a senator now would give the appearance to settle the recount before considering any of the disputes.”

* It’s still unclear when the new Senatorial Election Committee will meet for the first time. Jim Cyr, a spokesman for Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said the incoming Senate president wanted to settle the dispute early. However, Cyr wasn’t sure if the committee will begin meeting on swearing-in day or after that.

Also, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, is expected to handle the Republican response to the Democrats’ presser this afternoon, which suggests that the moderate will have a spot on the election committee.