Recounts in races for two midcoast Maine House seats in which Republican challengers narrowly lost to Democratic incumbents in unofficial Election Night tallies will be conducted Friday, November 20, in Augusta.

In House District 96, second-term Democratic Rep. Stanley “Paige” Zeigler unofficially led Republican challenger Katrina Smith by 1.14% with a tally of 2,974–2,907.

District 96 includes the towns of Belmont, Liberty, Lincolnville, Montville, Morrill, Palermo and Searsmont.

In House District 98, first-term Democratic Rep. Scott Cuddy unofficially led Republican challenger Jessica Connor by 2.13% with a tally of 2,710–2,597.

District 98 includes the towns of Frankfort, Searsport, Swanville and Winterport.

Under Maine statute, a $500 deposit is required for a recount with a margin above 1.5%, as in the District 98 race. Connor said the fee for her race was covered by House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham. The Free Press contacted Dillingham through Facebook but had not received a reply at press time.

The Secretary of State’s Office has not conducted recent analysis on how often recounts are successful and at what margins, but spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski said errors have been much smaller since the state standardized ballots and municipalities, beginning in 2014, switched from hand counting ballots to using digital tabulators. Today 309 municipalities use machines and 177 hand count.

“The turnovers we used to see, with changes in recounts that were big enough to actually alter the outcome, were overwhelmingly due to human error in hand-count vote reporting such as transposing numbers,” Muszynski said. “With the digital scanners now in place for most Maine voters, the changes we see in vote tallies are very minimal.” Typically, she said, these involve markings on a ballot that the machine can’t interpret, such as would be the case if a voter marked two candidates then crossed one out or drew an arrow to the other. “Review of those types of ballots for voter intent can change the tally, but typically it’s only by a few votes.”

Five of the seven municipalities in House District 96 use digital tabulators — Montville and Morrill hand count ballots. In District 98, all four towns use digital tabulators.

Recounts will be conducted in Room 103-A in the Burton M. Cross Office Building, adjacent to the State House in Augusta.

Recounts are public proceedings. Observers must wear face coverings and observe social distancing. Representatives of each candidate and staff members from the Department of the Secretary of State manually review each ballot to determine the official vote tally. Ballots are stored in a secure room in tamper-proof metal containers with serialized security seals and padlocks.