IN RE BALLOT DISPUTE IN ELECTION OF TOWN OF WINSLOW DISTRICT 3 TOWN COUNCILOR
W. Bourget, Esq., Law Offices of Ronald W. Bourget, Augusta,
for Jerry A. Quirion.
Trahan did not file a memorandum.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
JUDGMENT OF THE COURT
I. SAUFLEY Chief Justice.
The Town Clerk of Winslow, after conducting a vote recount,
tabulated the results and concluded that there was a single
disputed ballot in the race for a Town Council seat in
District 3 in Winslow in the November 7, 2017, election.
Because that single disputed ballot could make a difference
in the election, we have original jurisdiction to determine
the result of the election. See 21-A M.R.S. §
737-A(10) (2017). Having considered the facts and the
applicable law, we find and conclude that the marks on the
disputed ballot fail to disclose the voter's intent to
vote for either candidate. Accordingly, we enter the
following decision in which we confirm that Jerry A. Quirion
was elected to the Town Council for District 3.
FACTS AND BACKGROUND
We sit as the trial court in this matter; however, no facts
are in dispute except as to the intention of the voter who
completed the single disputed ballot. The initial results of
the November 7, 2017, election for the office of District 3
Town Councilor in Winslow were reported as 173 votes for
Jerry A. Quirion and 170 votes for Lee A. Trahan. Upon the
request of Trahan, the clerk or the clerk's designee
scheduled a recount, which was held ten days after the
election. See 21-A M.R.S. §737-A(3), (4)
(2017); 30-AM.R.S. §2531-B (2017); see also
30-AM.R.S. §2501(1) (2017) ("When Title 21-A
applies to any municipal election, the municipal clerk shall
perform the duties of the Secretary of State prescribed by
The Town Clerk supervised the recount, at which both
candidates were present with their representatives.
See 21-A M.R.S. § 737-A (2017). After applying
the Secretary of State's rules for determining voter
intent, 8A C.M.R. 29 250 550-1 to -3 (2010); see
21-A M.R.S. § 696(6) (2017), two additional ballots were
identified as votes for Trahan because checkmarks were placed
next to his name, and one disputed ballot was segregated by
the municipal clerk or designee. See 8A C.M.R. 29
250 550-2, §4(1)(A)(2); 21-A M.R.S. § 737-A(7). The
final vote count stated in the recount tabulation was 173
votes for Quirion and 172 votes for Trahan, with thirty-eight
blank votes and one disputed ballot.
Because "there are enough challenged or disputed ballots
to affect the result of an election, " the municipal
clerk, upon our order, delivered a copy of the disputed
ballot to us for review, and we invited memoranda from the
candidates. 21-A M.R.S. § 737-A(10); see also In re
Primary Election Ballot Dispute 2008, 2008 ME 117,
¶ 6, 955 A.2d 216. Having received a memorandum from
Quirion, and Trahan having waived the opportunity to file a
memorandum, we now review the disputed ballot and
"determine the result of the election." 21-A M.R.S.
§ 737-A(10). Our decision "is final and must be
certified to the Governor by the Chief Justice." 21-A
M.R.S. § 737-A(10).
The ballot that the Town prepared for voters required that a
voter, to cast a vote for an individual, "fill in the
oval to the left." For the office of District 3 Town
Councilor, the ballot directed, "Vote for
ONE" of the two listed candidates. On
the disputed ballot, a copy of which is appended to this
decision, the voter placed multiple marks in black boxes that
appear in the margins of the ballot, but the voter did not
mark any ovals on the entire ballot. With respect to the race
for District 3 Town Council, there is a mark in the left
margin beside the outlined box containing Quirion's name
and another mark beside the box containing Trahan's name.
Unlike some of the voter's other marks in the margins,
neither of these marks is in the shape of an oval or circle.
The mark in the margin beside Trahan's name is nearer to
the oval, but it appears less like an oval and more like a
scribble than the mark beside Quirion's name.
Application of the Law
"If a voter marks more names for an office than there
are vacancies to be filled or more choices for a question
than are permitted, the voter's vote for that office or
question may not be counted." 21-A M.R.S. §
696(2)(A) (2017); see 8A C.M.R. 29 250 550-2 §
3(2). A vote will also not be counted "[i]f a voter
marks the voter's ballot in such a manner that it is
impossible to determine ...