Should Ron Paul demand a new vote count in Maine?

Evidence is mounting that the vote totals for the Maine caucuses, in which Mitt Romney edged out Ron Paul, were pretty messed up. In addition to towns that hadn't voted yet, others' totals were not recorded.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, speaks to his supporters following his loss in the Maine caucus to Mitt Romney, Saturday, in Portland, Maine.

Should Ron Paul demand a new vote tally for the Maine caucuses? On Feb. 12, state GOP officials announced that Mitt Romney had won the Pine Tree State confabs by a narrow 194 votes. But since then there’s been increasing evidence that Romney’s margin of victory was somewhat notional.

Maine’s Washington County canceled its caucuses due to weather, yet the state party went ahead and called the election without them, for instance. A few other towns had previously scheduled their caucuses for the post-Feb. 12 period, and their totals weren’t included either.

Now it appears that some towns which did caucus did not have their vote totals listed in the state’s final count. The vote for most Waldo County towns was entered as “0,” pointed out the Bangor Daily News on Feb. 14. Waterville’s numbers were similarly omitted.

(Maine’s Republican Gov. Paul LePage was Waterville’s mayor. Will he be happy about the apparent disenfranchisement of his home town?)

Plus, in Portland, votes involving the second part of the caucus process, the choice of delegates to the state GOP convention, somehow got messed up. Officials have declared that vote void.

“Mistakes were made. Something tells me it’s going to take some time to sort this out,” wrote University of Maine political scientist Amy Fried on her Pollways blog.

Two quick points need to be made.

First, this is much ado about a beauty contest. The Maine results are nonbinding in terms of delegate selection. It’s that second process – the state delegate selection – that leads to allocation of Maine’s votes for the GOP convention in Tampa in August.

That’s why Ron Paul himself has been noncommittal about the mess. He thinks in the end his supporters stayed behind at the caucuses, after the presidential preference vote, and then dominated the delegate selection process, Portland’s process notwithstanding.

Last Sunday Rep. Paul told Bob Schieffer on CBS Face the Nation that he was “disappointed” about the preference poll vote, but that “we’re in a good position to win a good majority of [Maine’s national delegates].”

Second, it’s unlikely there’s going to be a full recount, because caucuses are a party-run thing. They’re not overseen by professional state election officials, as are primaries. They don’t have the time or the money to go through all the ballot slips again, no matter how many angry tweets Paulites send state GOP chair Charlie Webster.

That said, we think it’s still possible that Maine Republicans will be forced to announce an updated preference poll adding in towns that got skipped or have yet to vote. It’s also possible that Paul will win Maine after this announcement, as Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses after the fact.

Yes, The New York Times' polling analyst toted up the figures, and he thinks otherwise. He’s pointed out that the total number of votes cast in Washington County caucuses in 2008 is less than Romney’s current margin of victory.

But as we’ve noted it’s no longer just about Washington County. There are towns whose votes went uncounted, and other towns whose caucus dates are yet to come. Plus – and here’s the big finish – the Paul forces are now fully alerted, and if you’ve ever been on their wrong side, you know what that means. Their social media organizations are going to be focused on turning out more caucus attendees than the Washington County GOP has ever seen.

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