South Portland recount confirms Henderson’s election to council

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A Nov. 18 ballot recount at City Hall confirmed Susan Henderson’s election to the City Council, by 50 votes.

It also discovered 118 votes that weren’t originally tallied.

Henderson, who finished second behind incumbent Councilor Maxine Beecher Nov. 8 in the seven-person race for two seats, received 4,495 votes in the Nov. 18 recount. Candidate Katherine White Lewis, who requested the recount, received 4,445. Two other recounted ballots were disputed, and not included in the totals.

Beecher had 5,200 votes in the seven-person race on Election Day. Henderson followed with 4,440 to White’s 4,384.

Only votes cast for Henderson and Lewis were recounted.

The change in the total number of votes, City Clerk Emily Scully said in an email , was because “many ballots were counted as blanks by the (voting) machines.”

Those “overnotes,” as they’re called, happen “when a voter votes for more than the number of candidates allowed,” Scully said.

Typically when this happens, the machine rejects the ballot, she said. The voter is then asked to review the ballot and either resubmit it as is, which means it would be counted as a blank, or destroy the ballot and submit another one.

However, Scully said, because more than 6,400 absentee ballots were cast this election, “those voters were not given the option to review their ballot when it was cast.”

Scully said she heard from many people who were confused when they were asked to vote for two candidates, each for three years. Many voted for three candidates, instead of two, she said.

“We saw more than (the) usual amount of spoiled ballots on Election Day due to this,” she said.

Those overnotes were discovered in the recount, Scully said.

At the Nov. 21 City Council meeting, Lewis praised Scully for her “efficiency” and “professionalism,”  throughout the recount process.

The recount itself “seemed like it was time and effort well spent,” Lewis said.

Of the 118 votes or overnotes that were discovered to have not been counted by the machines, “I think that we learned is that human scrutiny of the ballots is very important … and could very well have changed the outcome of the election,” she said.

Lewis said she now hopes “the voters of South Portland now feel assured that all their votes were counted in this election.”

Henderson, in a written statement, thanked her supporters and said she was “honored to be elected.”

“The votes for Kate Lewis and I were close, and I hope that she will be elected to serve next year,” she wrote.

“I believe that all of us working together can advance our economy, protect our environment, develop affordable housing, provide excellent lifelong education and develop community with care and concern for all,” Henderson said.

“Seven people ran for the two council seats, and that shows that people care and are involved in what happens in our city. That is a good thing.”

This story was updated Nov. 22, 2016.


South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.