The group opposed to a new income-tax surcharge on Tuesday withdrew its request for a recount of the Nov. 8 referendum results, citing concerns about the recount procedure, the cost and the low probability it would overturn the election result.

In a three-page letter sent Tuesday to Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, the recount petitioners said they decided not to proceed after reviewing the procedural process established by the Secretary of State’s Office. The recount of the tax referendum – Question 2 on the ballot – was scheduled to begin Thursday and would have been conducted at the same time as a recount of the marijuana legalization referendum, which was Question 1. The Question 1 recount is scheduled to begin Monday.

If both recounts had moved forward, it would have been the first time that the Secretary of State’s Office performed simultaneous statewide recounts. Opponents of the tax question had raised concerns about confusion and other problems that might arise by combining the two recounts.

“The proposed procedural agreement, distributed at your Nov. 22 meeting of parties for Question 1 and Question 2, contains elements that concern us and we apparently would have had to go to court to get those concerns resolved. The costs associated with a recount of Question 2 exceed what we are willing to do given the very low probability that a recount would overturn the unofficial election result,” David Clough, state directer of the National Federation of Independent Business, and three other petitioners wrote in the letter.

Clough had raised concerns this week about the secretary of state’s plan to have representatives of both referendum questions team up to form counting teams. He said the process could cause confusion and create conflicts of interest between the different parties, but Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said that process would minimize how much the ballots are handled.

Passage of Question 2 means the state will impose an income tax surcharge on high earners to generate new funding for public education in Maine. Opponents requested a recount after the initiative appeared to have passed by a margin of 9,536 votes, or just over 1 percent. An unofficial tally from the Secretary of State’s Office shows 383,449 votes in favor of Question 2 and 373,913 opposed.


The manager of the Yes on 2 campaign said the decision to drop the recount means the state can now focus on helping students.

“On Election Day, Mainers made a clear decision. They want to fund our schools and they want the wealthiest Mainers to pay a little more so that all kids have equal opportunities to learn and grow,” John Kosinski said in a written statement. “It is now finally time that we move on to best help our students and get to work improving our schools.”

Question 1, meanwhile, legalizes recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older.

Opponents of legalization in Maine requested the recount after unofficial results showed the question passed by a margin of less than 1 percent – 4,073 votes (381,692 to 377,619), according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office.

The Question 1 recount is scheduled to begin Monday in the Florian Room of the Maine Department of Public Safety in Augusta. It is open to the public.

Unless the referendum results are overturned by the recount, possession and recreational use of limited amounts of marijuana will become legal for adults 21 and older by Jan. 7.


Maine was one of four states that voted last week to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. Eight states and Washington, D.C., now have voted to legalize a recreational cannabis market. Legalization advocates in Maine and other states saw the votes as a sign of momentum behind national reform, but are now concerned about potential opposition from the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

State officials say even one recount could take four to six weeks to complete and, if it goes on that long, could cost up to $500,000 in staff time, overtime and additional costs, such as paying for the Maine State Police to pick up padlocked and sealed ballot boxes from 503 individual towns and deliver them to Augusta. State police estimate it costs about $70,000 to collect ballots from 100 towns. Dunlap said there are additional costs to his office, including overtime for employees who are being pulled away from their regular work.

Maine has never had a statewide recount that included every ballot, because the requesting group dropped it after a partial review. In 2010, opponents of the Oxford Casino referendum stopped a recount after a review of about 25 percent of ballots showed no significant change in results.

In the letter to Flynn, the recount petitioners said it appears likely the state will see more groups using citizen initiatives to bypass the state Legislature on significant public policy changes. They suggested the secretary of state consider establishing a working group in 2017 to consider and propose changes “that may be appropriate for the post-election recount process of ballot questions.”


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