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Ask some people and they'll tell you that Maine has a strong two-party system. Ask other people the same question and they'll say: Very funny. The funny thing is there ARE things about Maine politics that are pretty funny.
Take the debate over when Mainers can register to vote. Some say you should be able to register right up until you grab a ballot and head for the voting booth. Others say registration should end a few days before the election. I can’t get too worked about the question, one way or the other but it did get me to thinking about elections gone by.
Years ago Maine was one of the most Republican states in the nation. When Maine used to hold its elections in September, Republicans used to say: As goes Maine, so goes the nation - the idea being that Maine ALWAYS went Republican.
That is no longer the case, but back when it was, folks in Cherryfield would have an election and then go down to town hall to count up the ballots. The total would always be: Republicans 293 votes; Democrats 0.
I remember back when Democrat John F. Kennedy ran for president against Richard M. Nixon. I wasn't old enough to vote, but I was interested in politics and followed the day-to-day campaign closely. I wanted to learn a thing or two about how our democracy worked. On election night I went down to the town hall to watch the counting of the ballots. As they went through the pile it was one Republican vote after another.
Then, about halfway through the pile they came across a ballot marked “Kennedy.” The smoothly running counting process suddenly came to a screeching halt, as a poll official fished out the odd ballot and passed it around the table for all to examine.
“Where'd THAT come from,” asked First Selectman Arthur Strout.
“I don't know,” said clearly annoyed Third Selectman Sherm Ames.
As the curious ballot went around the table almost everyone had a snide comment about who may have cast the vote, but in the end they concluded that the ballot looked legal and therefore probably had to be counted, they guessed.
Continuing the count, all the remaining ballots went into the Republican pile until they came to the second-to-last one and darned if it wasn't another strange-looking ballot marked “Kennedy.”
That's all Second Selectman Ed Beal needed. He jumped to his feet, grabbed the offending ballot and said: “The crook must have voted twice!”
So, they ripped up both wayward ballots, and the final vote - to no one's surprise - was Republicans 293; Democrats 0.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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