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Anti-Pot Forces Slow Maine Recount

Chris Roberts

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The exact percentage is disputed, but it’s certain a major part of life involves showing up. Sounds basic enough, but as the opponents of Maine’s marijuana-legalization measure demonstrated this week, being merely present is no guarantee.

Question 1 appeared to win approval by less than one percentage point on Election Day, or by a little more than 4,000 votes. The tiny margin of victory allowed opponents to trigger a recount at no cost to them if they requested it—and so they did what any sore loser would do.

Now, in order to determine if Maine was the fourth state to legalize adult-use marijuana on Election Day, representatives from both the yes and the no campaigns must show up to volunteer and count ballots.

And though it was the opposition campaign who called for the recount, the opposition campaign had a hard time showing up—which is slowing down the very process they demanded, according to the Portland Press-Herald.

Maine uses paper ballots, which means cannabis legalization is on hold under roughly 750,000 ballots are hand-counted, a process that can take more than a month. Most of the counting is done by volunteers, so in order for a recount to proceed, campaigns are asked to provide 10 volunteers, elections officials told the newspaper. A volunteer from each side is matched with an elections worker, and then each team of three gets to counting, with the idea that they’ll come to a number all three can agree on.

The recount began Monday, but for the first three days of counting, there weren’t enough anti-legalization volunteers to go around, the newspaper reported, leading elections workers with the Secretary of State’s Office to fill in.

There’s no requirement that the campaign requesting the recount help with the effort, you see—the state merely asks if they can’t lend a hand.

After shortages all week, a sufficient number of volunteers was at last scraped together by Wednesday afternoon, according to the newspaper. Nevertheless, the episode is predictably driving the Yes on 1 side nuts.

That is, quite frankly, silly,” said David Boyer, campaign manager for the Yes on 1 effort, in comments to the Portland Press-Herald. “The whole point is to ensure the integrity of the vote and they can’t be bothered to do that.”

Apparently, the No on 1 side didn’t inform the state that they’d be short-handed until late Sunday night, leading to a hiccup Monday morning. By contrast, the Yes on 1 side has a full contingent of counters—and they’re even paying for their gas and lunches. To that, the No side responds that they’re all grassroots volunteers with full-time jobs, lacking in big campaign funds.

The recount is expected to cost the state at least $500,000, a bill incurred mostly by the Maine State Police as it drives from town to town in the remote state to pick up ballot boxes for recounting. That bill might go up higher if the recount process is dragged out, according to Yes campaign officials.

As for the recount itself: So far, it’s not going in legalization’s favor. After recounting more than 37,000 ballots from Portland, the state’s largest city, where legalization won handily, the Yes side lost 26 votes, according to the newspaper. If the recount goes similarly when tabulating votes from other communities, it still won’t be enough to overturn the result—but it’s also giving the No side less reason to relent and accede to the results, meaning every last vote could indeed be counted.

Eventually. By someone. If they can be led to bother.

Question 1, which legalizes up to two-and-a-half ounces for adults 21 and over and will eventually lead to licensed and taxed retail sales, was supposed to go into effect in January, but is now subject to the recount. The recount is scheduled to run until Dec. 16 before breaking for two weeks for the Christmas holiday. Recounting won’t begin again until Jan. 2, the newspaper reported.

Again, the No side could end this at any time.

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