AUGUSTA – Unlike other recent ballot recounts, there were no surprises or heated disputes Monday during the recount in the district attorney’s race for Hancock and Washington counties.
Steven Juskewitch of Dedham, a write-in candidate, picked up a few votes as ballots from Hancock County were examined in a state police garage, but not enough to eat significantly into the approximate 19,000-vote lead held by incumbent Michael Povich. Povich received 23,000 votes on Nov. 5 to 3,700 write-in votes for Juskewitch.
Juskewitch said Monday he does not expect the Election Day outcome to be any different once the recount is complete.
“This is not an adversarial search for the truth,” Juskewitch said, standing in front of the theater-style roping that separated the state employees and ballot counters from folding chairs set up for the public. Fourteen counters, seven picked by each candidate, sat in pairs at folding tables on the other side of the roping as they examined the ballots.
Juskewitch said he requested the recount and paid the $1,000 fee to make a point about write-in votes. Some ballots with his name written on them were not counted because they were not marked with an indicator, which is usually a check or an X in a box next to the candidate’s name.
Such votes should be counted because the intent of the voter, who has written Juskewitch’s name on the ballot, is clear, Juskewitch said. He predicted he could pick up another 2,000 votes if all the ballots with his name written in, either correctly or misspelled, were included in the final tally.
Juskewitch said he was enamored of the “mechanics” of the recount process, but Povich was less enthusiastic. Povich said he didn’t have to attend the proceeding but did so out of respect, both for the counters who traveled to Augusta on his behalf and for the process.
The state Supreme Judicial Court has considered cases before involving write-in votes in nonlegislative races, according to Povich. Holding a recount simply to clarify state requirements for an official write-in vote was unnecessary, he said.
“You don’t need this,” Povich said. The most common problem with write-in votes is that people neglect to mark the box next to the name after they have written it in, he said.
“I don’t think you need a recount to say that people forget to vote,” Povich said.
Juskewitch said that the recount is indicating that roughly one-third of the electorate did not vote for Povich, who has held his job since 1973. Juskewitch worked for Povich as an assistant district attorney from 1989 to 2000 and lost to Povich in the Republican primary in June.
Povich said that a lack of votes in races where only one name appears on the ballot is not surprising.
“That’s always the case,” Povich said.
Counters started Monday morning with ballots from Hancock County towns, progressing alphabetically, and were expected to stop Monday afternoon after counting ballots from Ellsworth. The Secretary of State’s Office has scheduled recounting to continue today and, if necessary, on Wednesday.
Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said Monday the state does not keep track of how much money individual recounts actually cost. The $1,000 fee paid by Juskewitch is required of any race, regardless of the number of votes involved, in which the vote totals are separated by four or more percentage points, she said.
“This is a process that’s allowed by law,” Flynn said.