Politics & Other Mistakes: Battering the ballot

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Thanks to the Maine Republican Party, we are now aware of glaring flaws in the state’s electoral system, the most obvious of which is:

Republicans lost a lot of elections.

The failure of GOP candidates to prevail at the polls this year might be attributed to many factors. The party’s nominees could have held views that were at odds with those of their potential constituents. GOP strategists might have formulated poor campaign plans. It’s possible Republicans have gained reputations as obstructionists in the Legislature, bullheaded blunderers in the Blaine House, and racist, sexist, egomaniac creeps in the White House.

Maine Republicans don’t think it’s any of that stuff. They believe the real reason the pachyderm party isn’t winning in Maine is because voters are receiving the wrong ballots.

“Clearly, there is a problem we need to get to the bottom of here,” said Jason Savage, party executive director and rejected Cartoon Network character, in a news release. “When the wrong candidates are showing up on ballots far outside their district, apparently in significant numbers, we need an investigation.”

Savage’s statement would be entirely accurate, except for the part about there being a problem, the mention of the wrong candidates showing up on ballots and that thing about significant numbers. Once you remove those items from this screed, there’s not much left, so that investigation looks a lot less necessary.

The GOP collected affidavits from a few voters in four 1st Congressional District towns who claimed (sorta, kinda) they (maybe) voted for Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the November election. Since Poliquin was running in the 2nd District, that would be concerning – if there was any evidence those erroneous ballots existed.

But most of those towns used voting machines that would have flagged them if they did. The other town hand-counted the votes, and the tabulators didn’t notice any foreign objects in their ballot box.

I’m not saying these affidavit signers are lying. They could have misremembered. They could be delusional. They could be stupid. (The strongest evidence for those last two is they admit trying to vote for Poliquin.) But they’re not alone in their contradictory claims. I’ve found other voters who also received unusual ballots. Even though I didn’t collect affidavits from them, you can be assured their assertions are every bit as accurate as those good Republicans who signed sworn statements.

Two people from Eustis told me they received ballots for the American League Most Valuable Player award. They both voted for Mookie Betts.

A guy in Windham said he got a ballot for the Academy Awards, but only for the boring technical Oscars such as “Most Successful Removal by Digital Editing of a Serial Sex Abuser from a Major Motion Picture.”

Three citizens of Skowhegan found ballots that asked them whether they preferred:

A — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

B — Being tortured to death.

C — Two more years of Bruce Poliquin.

I, myself, found a survey mixed in with my ballots that asked which health supplements I took:

A — Vitamin A.

B — Vitamin B.

C — Cardi B.

D — Poliquin repellent.

Clearly, something untoward is happening. But the problem doesn’t appear to be with the electoral system, which is being adequately overseen by Democratic Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. Nor is the problem with ranked-choice voting, which (pending a court appeal) determined that Poliquin lost his bid for a third term.

Some may blame lack of civility or negative TV ads, but, as unpleasant as they may be, neither one can follow you into the voting booth and force you to fill out fake ballots.

The real issue is the Republican Party’s ongoing campaign to undermine the integrity of the electoral system by making wild claims and false accusations.

When the GOP doesn’t win, the party refuses to own its inadequacies. Instead, the party faithful promote unsubstantiated rumors, such as the old one favored by former Republican state Chairman Charlie Webster that a van filled with black guys from some other state was driving around rural Maine on Election Day registering its passengers to vote in numerous towns. Other than Webster’s hallucination, there were no sightings of this vehicle, but its legend persists among the subset of voters who can’t imagine why any real Mainer would vote against a swell guy like Bruce Poliquin.

The rest of us can rest assured that when we mark our ballots in the next election for our favorite unhealthy breakfast meat — bacon, ham, sausage, or Paul LePage – those votes will be honestly tallied.

Your opinion counts with me. Sometimes. Email it to aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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