On committees, Cathys, phantom ballots — and a refreshing lack of conspiracy

Cynthia: Mike, a Republican-led committee of legislators in Augusta solved the Senate District 25 mystery this week, and a committee led by Democrats in Washington uncovered torture committed by the CIA.

Is committee work back in fashion?

Mike: Committee work is rarely fashionable, mostly bureaucratic, and oftentimes boring. Yet, as we saw in Augusta on Wednesday, it can work. It turns out that, despite the Democratic hyperventilating about crimes and cover-ups, humans remain human and someone made a mathematical mistake. Can we now move onto the myriad of challenges facing Maine?

Cynthia: Hyperventilating? Hardly. Democrats (and some Republicans) just insisted that an investigation be conducted. The voters of Senate District 25, the candidates and the community of Long Island deserved nothing less.

I congratulate both Cathys for their class and integrity. Not everyone could survive such a baptism by fire — or such a long, drawn out committee meeting listening to bureaucrats talk about how things were supposed to happen under their watch, but didn’t.

And the governor deserves credit, too, for reminding us of his re-election “mandate” to be as partisan as possible. Why accept the Manchester loss with grace, when it’s just as easy for him to blame “liberals for falsely accus(ing) Republicans of trying to manipulate the election with so-called ‘phantom ballots?’”

Mike: Come on, Cynthia. Your side’s lawyer was saying “[t]he worst-case scenario is that extra ballots were somehow put into that count that were not real ballots, that someone ‘stuffed the ballot box,’” while Mike Tipping was too stumped “to think of a probable scenario where these ballots are legitimate,” and the Democratic Party invented the “phantom ballot” tagline. The governor simply returned the volley at the close of the match.

I think there are a few valuable lessons here. This is still Maine. Long Island residents are upstanding and “by-the-book,” despite insinuations of some to the contrary. People from all political backgrounds generally want and will work to get the correct answer. And not everything is a conspiracy.

Cynthia: Mike, without an investigation, ballot stuffing was the worst case scenario imaginable. That’s the point. The lesson is, don’t leave anything of political consequence to the imagination. It wastes too much time and energy.

I’m still wasting time and energy wondering what happened and why the committee didn’t hear from the people who actually know stuff.

Why didn’t Brenda Singo, the Long Island town clerk, get the opportunity to explain what she did, by the book, very well? After all, she traveled to Augusta in a Nor’easter. And what do those who botched the recount — lawyers and former lawmakers — say about their improbable “mistake?” Was the room too dark?

How does a pile of ballots move from one lot to another under the watchful eye of dozens of people there to ensure it doesn’t?

Meaningful reform in Augusta has to include some basic things, like letting people with personal knowledge of relevant facts speak at committee hearings, for instance.

And, if the answer to a question is likely in a box, open the damn box!

Mike: I agree with you — imaginations run amok were a big part of the problem, especially when the known facts were viewed through a partisan lens. But the 127th Legislature did not exist until Dec. 3, and within six days we had an answer. For committee work, that’s a breakneck pace!

And opening the box first makes all the sense in the world. It would’ve helped save Julie Flynn from hours of testimony, which was then undermined by the “lockbox.” If only we had listened to Al Gore in the 2000 debates…

Anyway, there were bureaucrats and partisans alike in the room when the mistake occurred. Dwelling on how this happened may have some value, but there isn’t any system which is completely human-proof. Heck, look at the Air Force’s mishaps with nukes.

What I want to know is: what happened to the other ballots at play here? Has everyone forgotten the 6 or 10 missing Cumberland and Westbrook ballots?

Cynthia: That’s the spirit, Mike! Curiosity may kill cats, but it keeps committees and commentators alive.

What do you imagine happened to the missing ballots? Were they lost to Obamacare?

Mike: I think the Grinch stole them. Then they will be returned on Christmas day and show 10 votes for Cathy Manchester. And it will be a very Merry Christmas in Who-dunnit-ville as we get to live this all over again.

Cynthia: Heaven help our two Cathy-Lou Whos! And, did you hear? Someone was found lying in a manger!

We need to get to the bottom of this, don’t you think?