- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Republicans say they were robbed of the Maine Senate because Democrats successfully challenged ballots with votes cast by pen instead of pencil and ballots with Mickey Mouse as a write-in for a judge's race.
A recount was called for the open race between Republican Leslie Fossel and Democrat Christopher Hall. As a result, 44 ballots were disputed and not counted.
Mr. Hall, who will be sworn in today, has a nine-vote lead. The disputed ballots would have given the victory to Mr. Fossel by five votes.
Martha Frink, Mr. Fossel's campaign manager, called it "grand election theft."
Republicans said ballots filled out with red ink were allowed in one precinct, but blue and black ink were dismissed in other precincts. Voters circled Mr. Fossel's name on some ballots and those also were dismissed. Of the district's 22 precincts, only one uses a machine to cast ballots; the others are done by hand.
"Obviously, the pens were put in the booth," Mrs. Frink said.
Supporters of Mr. Hall also eliminated a half-dozen ballots because votes for Mickey Mouse in a judge's race left a "distinguishing mark that says we can determine who the voter was," which would be inadmissible under state law, said Dwayne Bickford, Maine Republican Party spokesman.
Some voters signed their own names at the top of the ballots. Those, too, were dismissed.
"The process really stinks," Mr. Bickford said.
There are 35 seats in the state Senate, split between the parties 17-17. When Mr. Hall is sworn in today, Democrats will have control 18-17. This gives Democrats control of the House, Senate and governor's mansion for the first time since 1986.
"We believe the voters' rights are being disenfranchised by this process. They need to do what is fair and count all the votes," Mr. Bickford said.
Gwethalyn Phillips, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said the state has a strict system in handling recounts, a common occurrence in Maine.
"It is used many times in Maine and it works; it's not a big deal. The only reason this is a big deal is that it will determine control of the chamber," Ms. Phillips said.
Mrs. Frink said it is hypocritical of Democratic Party leaders to prevent ballots from being counted in Maine when they claimed similar actions occurred in the 2000 presidential election with hanging chads in Florida.
"In other words, they wanted every ballot to be counted in Florida but not in this instance, because the shoe is on the other foot," Mrs. Frink said.
Ms. Phillips and Anthony Buxton, former co-chairman of the state Democratic Party, were critical of the U.S. Supreme Court decision ending the Florida recount, according to the Dec. 14, 2000, Bangor Daily News.
Mr. Buxton said the court decision was as controversial as rulings that legally segregated whites and blacks and the interment of Japanese Americans.
"The Supreme Court of the United States is a human institution. Although the ruling was morally, extraordinarily wrong, we have the duty as citizens to make sure it doesn't happen again," Mr. Buxton said.
Ms. Phillips said at the time that former Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote for president.
"I'm very disappointed with the U.S. Supreme Court. I thought they would have come up with a better ruling, one that people would believe would be fair and just," she said.
Ms. Phillips said the Florida debacle and Maine are not comparable.
"Every vote has certainly been counted in Maine and that is always the case. The recount procedures have withstood the test of time, never in my 25 years in Maine have we had chads. Maine has a very defined system and all the votes have indeed been counted," Ms. Phillips said.
The recounts are open to the public and include one counter from each party and each candidate's attorney.
Republicans also challenged some ballots for containing distinguishing marks and not filling in the oval.
Mr. Fossel withdrew his request for an appeal in the Maine Supreme Court last week and the state constitution requires the Senate to resolve the dispute.
That will happen after Mr. Hall is sworn in and the Democrats retain the majority. However, Mr. Fossel remains optimistic.
"We're not robbed yet. There is always a chance for things to go right," Mr. Fossel said. "Sometimes you have to give people the opportunity to do the right thing."
"If they do it any other way they will ultimately participate in their own destruction. In one sense, it's a good idea, but that would be terrible for democracy," Mr. Fossel said.

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