That is exactly what former independent write-in candidate for US Senate from Maine Herb Hoffman hopes will be the outcome of LD 547. As proposed by his state senator Peter Bowman (D-Kittery), write-in votes in Maine will be counted and reported to the Secretary of State.
Media Alert below the fold.
For immediate release
Contact: Herb Hoffman
THE INTEGRITY OF MAINE’S BALLOT?
A bill to require that all votes cast for qualified write-in candidates actually get counted is scheduled for a public hearing at 1 p.m. Friday, March 20, in Room 437 of the Maine State House before the Maine Legislature’s Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee. The bill, LD 547 — An Act to Amend the Laws Concerning Write-in Candidates for Elected Offices to Increase Fairness — has been submitted by Sen. Peter Bowman (D-Kittery).
Bowman is sponsoring the bill on behalf of his constituent Herbert Hoffman of Ogunquit. Hoffman, an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in 2008, earned a spot on the November ballot but was ultimately forced to run as a write-in candidate after the Maine Democratic Party convinced the Secretary of State to make an after-the-fact rule change that eventually resulted in Hoffman losing his ballot position.
Hoffman then filed with the Secretary of State to become a “Declared Write-in Candidate.” He was one of 22 candidates who qualified as write-ins for Maine’s November ballot, including three presidential candidates, three U.S. Senate candidates, five legislative candidates and 11 candidates for county office.
“During the campaign, I became intimately familiar with the unfairness in the system for Declared write-in candidates and as a result I asked my state senator to attempt to rectify the inequities with the filing of what is now LD 547,” said Hoffman. “What I did not expect was the information brought to my attention after the election that votes for declared write-in candidates were not counted and in some instances votes that were counted were not reported to the Secretary of State,” added Hoffman.
This issue was rekindled last week on a call-in program at WMPG, Portland, where Hoffman was discussing LD 547. A caller, who identified himself as an election official in York County, stated that prior to the tabulation of votes after the polls closed on election day last November, the election clerk stated that write-in votes were not to be counted because there were no qualified write-in candidates. The caller chose to remain anonymous out of fear that his position would be in jeopardy. Hoffman noted that there were a total of six declared write-in candidates for federal office — three for President and three for Senator — along with 16 other candidates for state offices.
This information lent further support to the data that Hoffman had already gathered indicating that a number of election clerks did not count write-in votes and in some communities write-in votes were counted, but not reported to the Secretary of State. Among the cities in Maine reporting no write-in votes for either President or U.S. Senator were: Augusta, Presque Isle, Saco and Scarborough, according to Hoffman.
“The passage of LD 547 will correct the inequities currently in state statute and regulations as they apply to declared write-in candidates and will go far in ensuring that votes will be properly counted and reported in the future,” said Hoffman. “However, new legislation will not by itself correct the egregious failure to account for all votes that were cast in 2008. Decisions made by election officials at the counting tables in violation of existing state and federal law were responsible for the breaching of ballot integrity and this suggests the need for greater oversight in future elections.”
When Hoffman reported the data he had to the Secretary of State in a late December meeting, the Secretary said that he was powerless to make the clerks accurately report the votes. The need for greater supervision of elections in Maine appears to be necessary in order to maintain the state’s reputation for a high level of ballot integrity, according to Hoffman.
To assure that future declared write-in candidates are treated fairly and that their votes are properly counted and reported, LD 547 would strengthen state election law as follows:
* Requires the Secretary of State to attach to the sample ballot a list of declared write-in candidates that will be posted along with the sample ballot in all polling places.
* Eliminate the requirement that voters include the candidate’s municipality of residence when voting for a declared write-in candidate.
* Allow the use of stickers in the general election, as they are already allowed in primary elections.
* Require that the Secretary of State’s Return of Votes Cast form lists the names of all candidates, including write-ins.
* Require a write-in candidate to declare 45 days in advance of the election, instead of the current three days prior, to allow the Secretary of State enough time to adequately prepare and distribute the required lists and reports.
* Direct that the website of the Secretary of State list all qualified candidates for office on a single list.
“Maine takes great pride in the integrity of its election process, but if legitimate candidates are being mistreated, and legitimate votes aren’t being counted, that integrity is called into question,” Hoffman said.
“Sen. Bowman’s bill is designed to help assure that Maine continues to lead the nation in election integrity,” Hoffman said.