Activists behind five of the six referendum questions on the Portland’s Nov. 3 ballot have requested a recount of the only measure defeated by voters.

People First Portland, a political committee formed by the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America and their allies, formally submitted a request Tuesday for a recount of voting results for Question E: An Act to Restrict Short-Term Rentals in Portland.

People First Portland said they’re requesting the recount because the final vote count changed twice from the initial results reported on election night to the final results reported last Wednesday. The final margin of loss was 222 votes, which is less than 1 percent of those cast.

“Because the Referendum E vote count has been revised twice, and with only 222 votes difference out of 38,000 votes, we need to do our due diligence and make sure that every vote is counted,” People First Portland volunteer Karen Snyder said in a written statement.

Question E would prohibit non-owner-occupied short-term rentals, which would affect about 400 units. It would also raise the registration fee from $100 for the first unit to $1,000 per unit on Portland’s mainland and from $100 to $400 on the islands.

According to the city’s initial unofficial election results, voters defeated Question E by more than 2,000 votes, or 4 percent. However, city officials discovered that the vote count was inflated because a city worker accidental entered in the wrong vote totals for absentee ballots.


After the mistake was corrected, the apparent margin dwindled to only 235 votes. And that margin was further narrowed to 222 votes after the results were certified.

The difference falls within the margin that allows proponents to request a recount, after collecting 100 signatures from registered voters, without having to pay for it, according to state law.

Chris Korzen, the treasurer of the Portland Homeowners and Tenants Coalition, a political action committee funded by the Airbnb corporation that opposed the measure, said he is confident the outcome will not change.

“Short-term rentals in Portland are already well-regulated and the referendum was too extreme, which is why tens of thousands of people in Portland voted against it,” he said. “We believe the results will be upheld and the will of Portland voters will be respected.”

City Clerk Kathy Jones was not available Tuesday afternoon to answer questions about the recount’s timeline or process, according to a city spokesperson.

Voters approved five of the six referendums on the city ballot, five of which were placed on the ballot by People First Portland.

Voters overwhelmingly approved People First Portland’s four other measures: A minimum wage increase, a stronger ban on the use of facial recognition technology by city officials, a package of reforms called A Green New Deal for Portland and new tenant protections, including rent control.

A fifth referendum eliminating the City Council’s 20-store cap on marijuana retail establishments, placed on the ballot by marijuana advocate David Boyer, was also approved by voters.

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