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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.
Years ago Maine was one of the most Republican states in the nation. When Maine used to hold its elections in September instead of November Republicans used to say: As Maine goes, 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 John F. Kennedy ran for president against Richard Nixon, I wasn't old enough to vote back then, but I was interested and followed the day-to-day campaign closely. I wanted to learn a thing or two about how politics worked. On election night I went down to town hall to watch the counting of the ballots, and 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 process suddenly came to a screeching halt as a poll official fished out the unusual 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.
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 marked “Kennedy.”
That's all Second Selectman Ed Beal needed. He jumped to his feet, grabbed the offending ballot and said: “The SOB must have voted twice!”
So, they ripped up both ballots and the final vote - as usual - was Republicans 293; Democrats 0.
The town’s voting record was challenged again when Fred Clark moved to town. He was from the Deep South (Newport, RI) and had just retired from the Navy. He bought a place on Main Street and settled in to life in his adopted town.
Soon after, there was an election and, as always, the people of Cherryfield went off the vote later, as always, town officials assembled at the town hall to count-up the ballots. The results: 293 Republican and 1 Democrat.
The officials were stunned! They figured this new resident, this fella from the Deep South, must be the wayward voter. But, in fact, they all liked the fella a lot and if this was the extent of his aberrant behavior they were willing to grin and bear it.
But two years later, poor Fred suddenly up and died. Town officials were respectful but realized that Fred’s death meant the town would, once again, become the most Republican town in Maine. For that they appreciated Fred’s gesture on the town’s behalf and Fred was given one of the largest funerals the town ever saw – most everyone in town turned out.
As chance would have it, the next day was an election day and, as always, all went off to vote. When Selectmen counted the ballots it was 292 Republican and 1 Democrat.
First Selectman Ed Beal jumped to his feet and said: “Good Heavens, we buried the wrong man!”
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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