September 20, 2020

Printing error nullifies SAD 28 vote

ROCKLAND — Voters from Rockland, South Thomaston and Owls Head will take a second crack at the SAD 28 budget on Tuesday, June 30.

Although the $9.6 million budget appeared to receive voter approval when it was presented to them at the polls Tuesday, the entire school election was voided because of a ballot snafu.

Halfway through Tuesday’s voting it was discovered that part of the ballot had budget questions dealing with schools in the town of Dexter. The problem was determined to be a printer’s error.

By the time the error was discovered, 248 of the incorrect ballots had been voted by Rockland residents. The ballots in South Thomaston and Owls Head were correct. Those two towns vote by checking off the individual questions on the ballot. Rockland uses a voting machine and the 16-article budget needed a two-sided ballot.

School Superintendent Donald Kanicki said Rockland’s two-page ballot had the correct budget information on one page and the Dexter questions on the second page. Kanicki, himself, voted by absentee ballot the day before the election and failed to detect the mistake.

“I tell board members to read everything, and I didn’t,” Kanicki revealed during an emergency meeting Thursday night. “I could have caught it the day before and I didn’t. I take full responsibility.”

Ironically, the problem was discovered by Rockland resident and SAD 34 (Belfast) Assistant Superintendent Paul Luttrell. When Luttrell voted at the Rockland Recreation Center at 9:10 a.m. he picked up on the discrepancy immediately. Luttrell informed the school district of his concerns and 1,100 corrected ballots were run off the office copying machine.

Because 248 ballots were voted before the error was detected, the election clerk decided to void them all.

At Thursday’s meeting, school board attorney William Stockmeyer informed the board that any article that failed to pass by 248 votes had to be recast in all three towns, not just Rockland. Stockmeyer cautioned that holding the revote in Rockland alone, “would cast significant doubt on the validity of the election.”

Questions dealing with the elementary costs, maintenance and vocational education were the only ones to receive a better than 248 vote plurality. As a result, the new ballot will contain 13 of the original 16 questions.

Kanicki said Friday that the district chose to give the voters the opportunity to reach their decision by ballot rather than at a public budget meeting.

“It will be by secret ballot,” Kanicki said.

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