[Late tonight, after promising not to do so, and then changing their minds under pressure, the Maine GOP has finally released updated results. Those new results are linked and examined in the UPDATE now added to the bottom of this article.]
"The fight for Maine is far from over," says Cincinnati's Fox19 reporter Ben Swann, as he reported new numbers for Maine's 2012 GOP Caucuses last night.
The State's GOP Chairman Charlie Webster had announced last Saturday night that Mitt Romney had won Maine's caucuses by just 194 votes over Ron Paul. But, as we've been reporting, several counties had yet to even cast their votes at that time and, as we detailed in a follow-up report last night, the results of caucuses in dozens of towns across the state had simply been zeroed out in the state GOP's officially published results [PDF].
A firestorm of criticism directed towards the hapless Webster --- who had unsuccessfully fought last year to keep legal student voters in the state from being able to cast their legal vote at all, under the fraudulent guise that they were committing "voter fraud" --- has resulted in his backtracking on just about everything, including his own previous attempt to keep results from caucuses yet to be held from being included in the final results at all.
Swann says that he was able to ascertain results from several of the caucuses that had been reported by the GOP on Saturday as showing no votes at all having been cast. That, despite caucuses having been held in many of those towns last week, several of them a full week before Webster's apparent attempt to disenfranchise voters and steal the election for Romney last Saturday night.
Romney's lead, before the remaining 2 of 16 Maine counties vote tomorrow has now shrunk from 194 votes to just 157, according to new results obtained by Swann...
In his Fox19 video report [posted at the end of this article], Swann says he hasn't seen all of the numbers from towns which held caucuses but were previously reported as casting zero votes. But, from the numbers he has seen, "the gap may have already closed by 40 votes," in Paul's favor.
He reports that in Waldo County, where town after town showed no votes at all in the numbers published by the state GOP on Saturday night when they announced Romney as the "winner", in reality, Paul has picked up 71 votes, Santorum gained 47 and Romney picked up 24. A correction on the Fox19 page where the video report was originally embedded notes that Romney actually picked up 50, not 24 votes there, as Swann reported in the video. Nonetheless, he says, Paul is the winner of Waldo County.
According to the GOP's numbers from last Saturday night, Paul had won Waldo, but by only 7 votes. Their totals show him winning just 37 to 30 over Romney across the entire county.
Additionally, Swann reports that in Kennebec County's town of Waterville (which had also been reported by the state GOP as having zero votes), Paul picked up 21 votes, while Romney picked up 5.
All tolled, if Swann's numbers, including the correction on the Fox19 page are correct, the gap has closed by 37 votes, and Mitt Romney now leads going into tomorrow's final caucuses by just 157 votes.
Two Remaining Counties Still to Caucus
Tomorrow (Saturday), Washington County will finally hold its caucuses after they'd been postponed last week due to predicted snow fall which never came (the local Girl Scouts, reportedly, met last Saturday as scheduled without incident.)
A number of towns in Hancock County will also hold caucuses tomorrow. In both cases, the GOP chairs in each county were reportedly stunned to learn last weekend that their voters would be disenfranchised, as Webster announced that results from those counties would not be included in the state's final tally, no matter what they were.
The ensuing firestorm of justifiable complaints from Paul supporters, however, has led the Maine Republican Party to reverse course. In an executive committee meeting yesterday, they "voted unanimously to recommend to the state committee that they include the results [from Washington County] in the final tally for the presidential preference poll," according to a statement from Webster which, the Bangor Daily News took pains to report, was "approved by the state party's executive committee."
The paper also reports that "the executive committee is working to reconfirm results that were turned in before Feb. 11." The word "reconfirm", seems to be the language chosen to concede that they will include caucus numbers that had previously been zeroed out in last Saturday's "final results" for reasons still unknown.
As we noted yesterday, for example, Matt McDonald, the caucus chair in Waldo's town of Belfast, says he gave the state his caucus results last week, showing that Paul had won there. But the state GOP had told him that their numbers (from an unknown source) showed Romney winning it instead. After informing the state GOP that they had "publicly counted" the hand-marked paper ballots at his caucus, he says, the woman he spoke with quickly changed her tune.
"As soon as she heard we had publicly counted she said, 'Oh, I'll be sure those numbers are changed'," McDonald told the Waldo VillageSoup.
Yes, when ballots are counted publicly --- not in secret back rooms, and not by computer optical scanners or touch-screen voting systems --- it's very difficult to hide true results from the public or change them after the fact. At least not without getting caught. Not that any of that seems to have kept the GOP from trying. Belfast was one of the towns reported by the state GOP to have cast zero votes in their results last Saturday night.
Today, however, Webster has a new story for what happened to those missing votes.
They 'Went to Spam'
In a report today from Tim Mak at Politico, Webster is claiming that many of the results reported from town caucuses across the state "went to spam" when they were sent to the state email account. The problems amount to little more than "clerical errors," says Webster.
With just 16 counties in the state, it seems that the state GOP Chairman simply didn't notice, when reviewing the 13 pages of results before releasing them Saturday night, that many of the results in the document looked like this:
Nonetheless, Webster insists to Politico that the newly discovered numbers, whatever they may be, haven't changed the outcome of the contest.
"You get people complaining about [missing votes in] Waldo County. We're talking 120 votes, and most of them went to Santorum," Webster told Politico. Fox19's Swann, however, reports that, from the numbers he's seen, Santorum picked up 47, while Paul picked up 71 in Waldo.
Webster told Politico, "It's a handful of votes, and those are important, they all count, but it's not like we were trying not to count them."
That's not what Eric White, the GOP chair for Hancock County told Fox19's Swann. White said the results of his county's caucuses "better count" because, he says, Webster was the one that "changed the rules in the middle of the game," by not informing him previously that caucuses held after February 11th would not be included in the final results.
According to Swann, "White says the first time he heard the caucus would not be counted was Sunday morning," after Webster had already announced Romney as the "winner" of the state's caucuses.
Webster: Paul Supporters 'Are Just Being Conspiracy Theorists'
The Politico article then goes on to quote Webster sliming supporters of Ron Paul for objecting to his own faulty numbers and for not including the votes of voters who have yet to caucus when he announced Romney as the "winner" by just 194 votes last Saturday.
Paul supporters "are just being conspiracy theorists," said Webster. "If they talked to any other legislators in Maine who are Ron Paul supporters, they would be told that I have been fair. ... What angers me is that people who question that I'm neutral don't know me."
But, of course, we don't have to "know" Webster to know that he has, in the past, tried to deny legal voters from voting at all in the state of Maine, failed to include votes of voters who had already voted in caucuses in this year's results, and attempted to entirely disenfranchise voters from two entire counties.
Thankfully, when votes are counted transparently and publicly, it doesn't matter if we "know", or even trust, any election official. The only thing that matters is what we are all able to oversee with our own eyes. Massive election fraud, as attempted by Charlie Webster here, is very difficult to pull off under those circumstances, as it is likely to be after tomorrow's final caucuses are held.
As Swann correctly noted in his report last night: "There is stricter accountability when everyone can see and hear who is voting for whom. At least that seems to be happening as the people of Maine are demanding it."
Just two days ago, according to the pretend rightwing "news" site, The Daily Caller, Webster claimed the state party had gone back to correct the original numbers, but would not report them to the public.
"There will be no access" to the correct results, Webster said. "We will give it to the [state GOP] committee on March 10. We are not going to release them. People can whine and complain and plead, but I'm not going to make them public."
So, there you have it. Webster doesn't believe that we, the people, should have the correct results about how the people of Maine voted. Instead, presumably, what the whining and complaining people deserve is only what he told them in his televised announcement of inaccurate results on Saturday night, when he said: "I'm now gonna announce the winner of the Maine GOP poll. And that winner is Mitt Romney."
Webster reportedly told The Daily Caller that the updated numbers actually show Romney with a greater lead over Paul than he had on Saturday, and that the reason he would not release those numbers until the state committee meets on March 10th is that "people are going to sense a conspiracy and this is going to keep going." All Webster wants, the reports says, is for the "press feeding frenzy" to end.
His attempt to keep the results a secret, known only to him, however, is unlikely to quell concerns of "a conspiracy", keep the public from "going" on about it, or end the "press feeding frenzy." Once again, as is his wont, the embarrassing Chair of the Maine Republican Party has gotten everything completely wrong.
'A Different Winner of the Maine Caucus'?
All the 'whining and complaining and pleading,' from voters, however, may have made a difference. That, and the fact that the Waldo County Republican Party voted this week to recommend to the state committee that they censure Charlie Webster when they meet next month on March 10. The Waldo County GOP had originally moved to call for Webster to be fired entirely. They reportedly failed to get consensus on firing, however, so settled for a censure resolution instead.
According to the AP this afternoon, Webster says, "Mitt Romney is still the winner of this month's GOP presidential caucuses following a recount of the votes."
They go on to report that Webster says "the exact vote count of Maine's nonbinding straw poll would be released Friday afternoon, ahead of Saturday's caucuses."
As of 5:30pm ET today, however, there are no new results posted to the Maine Republican Party's website.
Will tomorrow's caucuses make a difference? Will Paul be able to overcome the now-reported 157 vote gap? That will depend on turnout which could be way up, now that voters have an idea what it may take to change the final results.
"After Saturday," Fox19's Swann says, "there may be a different winner of the Maine Caucus." He says that comparing turnout to 2008 numbers may not be helpful, as some caucuses had twice the turnout this year as they did four years ago. And with the publicity (and shame) Webster's failure has brought to the entire fine mess, that turnout could skyrocket on Saturday.
Last Sunday, New York Times' Nate Silver reported that just 113 votes were cast across the rural county of Washington in 2008.
However, he notes, "There are 6,907 registered Republicans in Washington County, and another 8,247 unaffiliated registered voters, who are eligible to participate by changing their registration to Republican at the caucus site. Unregistered voters, for that matter, are also free to participate provided that they register at the caucus site."
If Paul supporters are able to turn out their people tomorrow in big numbers, it's quite possible that we may see yet another state result overturned after all votes are actually cast, counted and reported accurately by state officials.
We saw a similar case in the Iowa Caucuses earlier this year where, again, the state Republican Chair had announced Romney as the winner before all votes were accurately reported. In that case, the results were later changed and Santorum was announced the true winner after a Ron Paul supporter stepped forward to point out inaccuracies in the state GOP's reported results. He was able to report those inaccuracies, and see them quickly confirmed by others, thanks to the public counting of hand-marked paper ballots in the Iowa Caucuses. Had the ballots been counted in secret, or by computer, the wrong man would likely have been considered the "winner" of that election.
Hopefully votes at tomorrow's caucuses will be publicly counted as well, so that we'll be able to know, for certain, how the people actually voted --- not just how the failed chairman of the state's Republican Party would like you to believe they did.
Ben Swann of Cincinnati's Fox19 reports on updated caucus numbers, unearthed from the state of Maine last night, 2/16/2012...
CORRECTION: We had originally identified Ben Swann's Fox19 as a Maine TV news outlet. In fact, WXIX Fox 19 is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. So, further kudos to Swann for giving a damn about elections outside of his local area. Wish more reporters, local or otherwise, did same. Hope we can count on his similarly tenacious coverage of Ohio elections this year! We could have used him there eight years ago!
UPDATE 6:40pm PT: Tonight, along with a terse notice on their website, the Maine GOP has released what they describe as "Updated Results":
That's all they say before linking to an updated PDF with new results as of 2/17/2012.
The Maine GOP's newly reported results show Romney's lead expanded to 239 votes over Paul as follows:
Romney: 2,269 (39.03%)
Paul: 2,030 (34.92%)
Santorum: 1,052 (18.09%)
Gingrich: 391 (6.73%)
Undecided: 59 (1.01%)
The state GOP's newly reported results add 229 votes to the total previously reported as cast, as compared to their initially reported results [PDF] released last Saturday night 2/11/2012, showing Romney leading Paul by just 194 votes, as follows:
Romney: 2,190 (39.21%)
Paul: 1,996 (35.74%)
Santorum: 989 (17.71%)
Gingrich: 349 (6.25%)
Other: 61 (1.09%)
Looking at tonight's new results [PDF] quickly, it seems Fox19 Swann's report of Paul picking up 21 votes and Romney picking up 5 in the Kennebec County town of Waterville syncs up with the GOP's new numbers.
His incomplete reports on Waldo County, however, do not sync as perfectly. It seems when Swann referred to "picking up" votes by each candidate, he may have meant total votes in some cases, and pickups in others. In any case, the state GOP now reports the following totals for Waldo County:
Romney: 59 (29 vote pickup)
Paul: 72 (35 vote pickup)
Santorum: 50 (33 vote pickup)
Gingrich: 21 (18 vote pickup)
While Swann's numbers were not perfect, neither were Maine GOP Chair Charlie Webster's who had claimed that "You get people complaining about [missing votes in] Waldo County. We're talking 120 votes, and most of them went to Santorum."
As you can see, many of them went to Santorum, though more of them, two more, actually went to Paul.
In total, presuming the GOP numbers are now correct (not a safe assumption in the least!) --- as voters in both Washington and Hancock Counties prepare to vote in tomorrow's final caucuses --- the gap between Romney and Paul has now reportedly widened from last Saturday's 194 votes to tonight's 239, with Romney still in the lead, according to the Maine GOP.