How Ron Paul may have won — and lost — Maine

By Amy Fried and Michael Socolow
February 16, 2012

Washington County, Maine, is the easternmost point in the continental United States. This region of rocky shores and pinetree forests is populated by proudly independent — and defiant — citizens.

The Republicans in Washington County have supported such radical and underdog candidates as Ross Perot and Patrick Buchanan in the past.

Too bad they didn’t get to participate in the Maine caucuses last weekend.

Due to a snowstorm, the Republican party in Washington County (and in various locations in neighboring Hancock County) was forced to reschedule its caucuses for this coming weekend. Yet despite not having results from these precincts, Maine Republican Chairman Charlie Webster declared Mitt Romney the victor in the Maine caucus. Romney, Webster reported, earned 2,190 votes, while Ron Paul finished second with 1,996 votes.

According to the Associated Press, the chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, Chris Gardner, a Romney supporter, called state party leaders and expressed his “complete and utter dismay.” Washington County Republican leaders, who moved their caucuses to this coming Saturday after snow made it difficult to meet last weekend, will convene these postponed caucuses this Saturday, and County Chair Gardner is hoping that state party officials will change their mind and accept the results.

He shouldn’t hold his breath.

After all, the Republican leadership in Maine refused to accept the results of other caucuses that were completed in time. Eighteen towns that held caucuses in Waldo County reported their results by the Feb. 11 deadline, yet those totals showed up nowhere in the final tally. Nor did the results from Waterville or Belfast make it into the GOP numbers even though the caucuses held in those towns were also completed by the deadline.

The one variable that links each of these cases is Ron Paul. If all of Waldo County’s caucus totals counted (including the excluded results), Paul would have won by 21 votes. Paul was the only candidate to visit Waterville, where he spoke to students at Colby College and tallied 16 more votes than Romney in the excluded Waterville caucus. When the chairman of the Belfast Caucus Committee telephoned his results showing a Paul victory to the state’s Republican headquarters, he was told they already had the numbers. Those numbers mysteriously — and inaccurately — showed a Romney victory in Belfast. When the final tally for Maine’s caucus was announced, zero votes from Belfast were included. Interestingly, not a single case of excluded caucus results supporting Romney has been publicly identified yet.

Gardner expects a large turnout this Saturday. “Based upon the fact that this year’s caucuses ginned up a lot of interest, we were anticipating there would be north of 200 people there,” the county GOP chairman told Dave Weigel at Slate.com. “Now that we’ve gotten the attention, the amount of attendees we’ll see is anyone’s guess. I’d be shocked if we saw lower turnouts as a result of this.”

Sentiment around Maine is that Ron Paul will likely win the Washington County caucuses to be held this coming Saturday. He only received eight votes from the county in 2008, but statewide in 2012, even without the votes in question from Waldo County, Belfast and Waterville, Paul almost doubled his vote total from 2008. Romney, on the other hand, saw his statewide vote count decline from 2,837 votes in 2008 to 2,190 votes in 2012. Another factor is that Washington County has both a proud, independent tradition in electoral politics and the kind of community and public college population that often provides support for Ron Paul.

But even if Paul doesn’t win, the electoral process has still been tainted. Not allowing people in at least a county and a half to have their preferences registered in Maine’s caucuses, particularly those in areas that all political observers believe favor one candidate, skews the results and undermines democratic input. At the same time, the announcement of the vote last Saturday opens the door to political mischief and challenges democracy as well. In general, caucuses attract a small percentage of citizens who can devote hours to them and consistently have much lower turnout than primaries. But in a place like Maine, where town meetings still make local budget decisions, many have been loath to shift to primaries, which require less from citizens but involve more people.

If Paul were to win Maine, he would join Rick Santorum, who “lost,” then won, the Iowa caucus, as a twin victim of a system geared against outsiders. The lesson of Iowa and Maine, it would appear, is that perhaps the Republican Party should closely examine its own electoral procedures before worrying about general election processes in the rest of the country.

Why should those (like us) who are not Ron Paul supporters — or even Republicans — care about what has happened in Maine and Iowa? Because important questions concerning democratic processes and how results are skewed and reported are being ignored by the national media. Until the 2000 presidential election turned on how votes were counted (or not counted) in Florida, the rickety mechanisms of casting and tallying votes received little attention. What just happened in Maine should raise questions about systems run by state and local party officials that are not governed by set processes and laws, but that still affect reporters’ stories and the trajectory of the nomination contest. Just imagine if journalists at CNN, the New York Times and CBS News reported (accurately) that Rick Santorum won Iowa and that Ron Paul will win Maine. The narrative of the election would be significantly altered and the inevitability of Mitt Romney’s victory would be called into question. Maine’s caucus mess isn’t easily or quickly cleaned up. This untidiness should prompt journalists to take their time before declaring a winner when it’s not certain who prevailed.

It might be too late for Iowa and Maine. But it’s not too late for journalists to approach future primaries and caucuses mindful of the mistakes they’ve made so far. Producing accurate, independent reporting should be the goal at this point. It might make up for earlier mistakes.

We’re not holding our breath.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) addresses supporters at his Maine caucus night rally in Portland, Maine, February 11, 2012.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder

14 comments

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Two colleges were in session last weekend in Washington County, the Community College and Mathias College, which are not going to be in session this weekend.

And various groups, not just Paul supporters, are galvanized to have Washington County now turn out their way.

Posted by sailing | Report as abusive

95% of the mainstream media doesn’t care about election fraud. It is bought, sold and paid for by the corporate elite which in turn has its bids for specific puppet props like Obamney.

Now if Romney was fudged like that, I am sure there would be a media frenzy all over it… but they mostly ignore/marginalize Ron Paul, and because of that, people who do truly care about corrupt state GOP practices(like Nevada and Maine) and Ron fight back against media blackouts and non-reporting/exposure.

Posted by geminish | Report as abusive

Well Reuters, way to report the truth in a dispassionate and thoughtful way wasn’t sure you folks had it in you. Whats going on in these caucus states is critical for the future of our country and representational democracy. If we allow this to go uncorrected, we lose everything.

Posted by medalton03 | Report as abusive

For the record. Washington County only got a light Dusting.

Posted by Kobayashi_Maru | Report as abusive

[...] How Ron Paul may have won — and lost — Maine [...]

and in the back of my head a voice screams “did Gore really win the election” DOES JIMMY CARTER REALLY NEED TO OVERWATCH AMERICAS ELECTIONS.

Posted by kind.bs | Report as abusive

[...] Paul?New York Times (blog)Paul campaign: Don't need recount, will win delegatesKennebec JournalHow Ron Paul may have won — and lost — MaineReuters Blogs (blog)The Atlantic Wire -Christian Science Monitor -NPRall 371 news [...]

great article. what has happened in Iowa Nevada and Maine should have major attention in all the papers.

Unfortunately the process is paid for and they don’t really mind discouraging voters because the only voters they want showing up are the one’s that still believe the lie’s fox news is feeding people.

Posted by mariner34 | Report as abusive

It proves the republican party’s nationwide voter registration crackdowns are window dressing to actual voter fraud that they regularly create, commit and justify.
Republicans went ape-crazy over make believe voter intimidation in Philidelphia, they shut down ACORN for perceived voter fraud yet they turn a blind eye to evident conspiracies that happen to their own party on their own watch. They clearly cannot be trusted with something as important as elections. The justice department should assign an overseer.

Posted by madest | Report as abusive

Charlie Webster , Maine’s Republican Party Chairman, was totally obsessed with voter fraud last year, and stumped hard against a people’s initiative to preserve same-day voter registration. The measure carried in a landslide.

Now it appears that his party is ignoring the wishes of its own members, and pushing for a result more in keeping with a national agenda.

Too bad for the people of Maine.

Posted by papabooker | Report as abusive

[...] case of excluded caucus results supporting Romney has been publicly identified yet. . . ." http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debat…nd- lost-maine/ How is this not a bigger story? Such blatant election fraud . . .   [...]

In Hancock county Maine, the towns that have already voted had a turnout that was more than double what it was in 2008. So a turnout between 200-250% above 2008 totals would be the minimum expected in Washington. With all the fraud, missing votes, conflicting instructions, all errors falling in Romney’s favor and delays in trying to fix the problems, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot more showed up to make it clear to the state GOP that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
It’s also interesting that Washington county was the only county that Ron Paul won in 2008, and was the only county cancelled for non-existent snow by the state GOP in 2012.

Posted by JohnMikal | Report as abusive

In Hancock county Maine, the towns that have already voted had a turnout that was more than double what it was in 2008. So a turnout between 200-250% above 2008 totals would be the minimum expected in Washington. With all the fraud, missing votes, conflicting instructions, all errors falling in Romney’s favor and delays in trying to fix the problems, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot more showed up to make it clear to the state GOP that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
It’s also interesting that Washington county was the only county that Ron Paul won in 2008, and was the only county cancelled for non-existent snow by the state GOP in 2012.

Posted by JohnMikal | Report as abusive

Ron Paul supporters, if you haven’t already, please go to VoteRonPaul and make your pledge to vote for him. Take a look at the map that is shown. (It may take a bit to load, btw) It’ll show supporters from across the country. Please share the page with your friends, family and other Ron Paul supporters and scroll down to the bottom to like their facebook page. I would love to see EVERY Ron Paul supporter make their pledge to vote for him. We know that Ron Paul has faced and will face continued efforts to marginalize him and even attempts at voter fraud (Iowa for example!) If we could get every single Ron Paul supporter to this site and make their pledge, it is my belief that it will be hard for them to ignore especially when we start seeing numbers into the millions. We would make people’s eyes pop out of their heads when they see the sheer number of us and no one will ever have a reason to say he is “unelectable” ever again. Thanks.

Posted by Jaed_Deaj | Report as abusive

Dewey Defeats Truman!
talk about journalists jumping the gun

Posted by kyhaines | Report as abusive

You may have noticed the 6 Feb 2012 NY Times article about how the last couple of decades has seen a decline in other countries using the US Constitution as a model. Based on my 20 years abroad, the reason is declining US prestige, combined with hypocrisy. While we run around the world preaching democracy and human rights, we started a massive war in Iraq, we have the world’s highest incarceration rate, and we have a primitive voting system prone to problems. Actually, our voting system has more fundamental problems than caucuses, hanging chads, and the electoral college: it is subject to vote-splitting, and it does not produce compromise. The simplest solution would be to implement Approval Voting. This would also greatly reduce the negativity in the primaries.

Posted by StephenCobb | Report as abusive

The Girl Scouts had a meeting the same day in Washington county. They did not cancel!!!! LOL , must be them cookies!!! Maybe the chairmen of the Maine republican party should try some!! I personally hopes he CHOKES on one!
It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.
-Samuel Adams
Please Wake Up Folks!!!
This country is being sold down the River!!

Posted by primer | Report as abusive

[...] was funny business occurring in the Georgia Caucus. Also, questionable things were reported in the Maine caucus. Questions of fraud were raised in Nevada, too. It’s enough to make you think the mainstream [...]