Marijuana legalization opponents who requested a statewide recount of the Nov. 8 referendum results failed to provide a full roster of ballot counters for the first two-and-a-half days of the process, but said the slots were filled Wednesday afternoon.

The Yes on 1 campaign, which backed the initiative that appears to have legalized recreational marijuana by a slim margin, criticized the No on 1 side and said the shortage of counters had slowed the tedious process of hand counting ballots.

State elections officials said Wednesday the process is back on track after a slight delay at the start, and that state staff and other volunteers filled in when necessary. And while the state asks each side to provide equal numbers of volunteer counters, there is no state law requiring the No on 1 campaign to provide a certain number of volunteers in order to proceed with the recount.

The recount, which began Monday, could take a month or more to complete and cost close to $500,000, largely to cover costs for Maine State Police to deliver sealed ballot boxes to Augusta.

During the recount, 10 teams of three counters – comprising one volunteer from each side of the issue plus a staff member from the Secretary of State’s Office – recount the ballots. Generally, each side provides 10 volunteers, but sometimes the campaigns cannot come up with enough, said Kristen Muszynski, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office.

“When they don’t have enough, we substitute with staff or other volunteers who are willing to help out with the recount process,” she said.


Representatives of both campaigns said in the days leading up to the recount that it can be tough to find volunteers who can miss entire work days to count ballots.

David Boyer, campaign manager for Yes on 1, said volunteers with his campaign pitched in to count for the “No” side to keep the process going on Monday and Tuesday.

“That is, quite frankly, silly. The whole point is to ensure the integrity of the vote and they can’t be bothered to do that,” he said. “What are we doing here?”

Boyer said the No on 1 campaign’s “lack of organization is costing taxpayers more money because it’s going slower.” The Yes on 1 counters include both volunteers and campaign staff, and the campaign is paying for their lunches and gas.

Newell Augur, attorney for the No on 1 campaign, said the campaign was able to provide a full contingent of 10 counters on Wednesday afternoon, but had a couple people missing in the morning because of weather and child care issues. He stepped in to help count ballots Wednesday morning and said the process appears to be on schedule.

Augur bristled at criticism about volunteer numbers from the Yes on 1 campaign, pointing out that the opposition campaign is not as well funded and relies on a grassroots group of volunteers who have full-time jobs.


“Certainly a lot of people from out of state invested millions of dollars trying to push this provision through. They obviously want to capitalize on their investment as soon as they can,” he said. “This is our state, this is our election and we’re going to make sure the count is accurate.”

Muszynski said there was a slight delay Monday morning because her office was not notified until late Sunday night that the No on 1 campaign was short of counters. The process began with fewer counting teams, but staff and other volunteers were able to step in.

The recount started with ballots from Portland and will move onto other large communities before ballots are collected from smaller towns. Counters finished Scarborough ballots Wednesday morning, then moved on to ballots from Lewiston. The next cities to be counted will include South Portland and Bangor.

After the more than 37,000 Portland ballots were counted, the “No” side picked up 26 votes, Boyer said. The Secretary of State’s Office will not release new totals until the end of the process.

Boyer said the 26 lost votes in Portland are not a major concern to legalization proponents because they believe it is still “statistically impossible” for the overall outcome to change. Augur said the campaign has seen nothing that has changed opponents minds about proceeding with the recount, which it can end at any time.

“At this point, the recount is absolutely still appropriate given the extraordinarily close margin,” he said.


Augur said the No on 1 campaign has requested that the second phase of the recount review ballots from 25 to 30 specific towns.

“We felt the margins on Question 1, based on the margins in some other races, whether it was the presidential or congressional race, would have suggested a higher vote total for the ‘No’ side,” he said.

The recount is scheduled to proceed through Dec. 16, take a break for the holidays and then resume after Jan. 1.

Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot passed by 4,073 votes – 381,692 to 377,619 – according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office. Opponents did not have to pay for the recount because the margin was so small, less than 1 percent of votes cast.

If the election results stand, the new law will take effect as soon as the first week of January, though the exact date is unclear because the recount must be completed first. The process of reviewing as many as 700,000 ballots from roughly 500 communities could delay implementation even if the review does not uncover enough counting errors to overturn the results.

The new law makes it legal for adults to possess as much as 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow a limited number of plants. It also allows for retail stores and social clubs, which likely won’t open until 2018 because the state has to develop licensing and regulatory rules.

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