Plastic chains separate voters alphabetically at the check-in area Tuesday at Thomas College in Waterville. The college is the city’s polling location. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — It appears voters in Somerset County have rejected a proposal to change the register of deeds from an elected to an appointed position, County Administrator Tim Curtis said Wednesday.

Although Curtis said he does not expect to receive final results from the Maine Department of the Secretary of State for two to three weeks, tallies from the largest towns in Somerset County indicate voters overwhelmingly chose Tuesday to keep the key administrative position an elected post.

More than 60% of those who voted in Anson, Fairfield, Madison, Norridgewock and Skowhegan rejected the proposal, according to Curtis, who said he expects the margin to remain about the same as voting precincts across the county continue to report ballot results.

The register oversees the Somerset County Registry of Deeds, which maintains records of land ownership, mortgages, water wells and more. It is one of the few county departments that produces revenue.

The county’s five commissioners voted unanimously to place the question onto the ballot, citing difficulties in finding someone for the position.

Somerset County has been without a register of deeds since September, when Erica Rowe resigned about a month after beginning the job. Rowe was appointed by municipal caucus in July to replace retiring Laura Price, who was elected to the position in 2018. Price had been acting register since December 2014.


The requirement that the job be elected has posed a challenge for the county in finding someone for the post, according to Curtis.

“I think that’s the biggest complication here,” he said.

Between elections, the Somerset County Commissioners can find a candidate who can then be approved by a caucus of elected municipal leaders. That person, however, would then need to pull papers and campaign to remain in the position in the next election — in this case, 2024.

Curtis said the county respects the voters’ decision and will move forward accordingly.

“The Registry of Deeds is still in good hands. There’s a good staff there,” he said. “Going forward, we’ll need to find leadership there. And if it’s the will of the voters that we’ll have to do that through the ballot box, then that’s what we’ll have to do.”

County Commissioner Robert Sezak, who is the chair of the commission, said he expects the commissioners to discuss the results of the vote at their next meeting.


“We’re going to actively try to fill the position,” Sezak said.

In other referendums Tuesday, voters in Skowhegan rejected a similar ballot question proposing to make the road commissioner an appointed position instead of an elected one. The vote was 1,163 votes against the proposal and 764 in favor.

In Fairfield, residents voted 701-685 against an effort to establish a charter commission for the purpose of revising the municipal charter. There was an effort to revise the charter so that the town budget could be approved by secret ballot. It is now approved at the annual Town Meeting, but lagging attendance at the meeting has concerned town officials.

Richmond voters approved a new benefit plan for police that would allow full-time officers to retire after 25 years of service, rather than when they reach the ages of 60 or 65.

Town Manager Laurisa Loon said the plan is more in line with what other departments in the area offer. The change is meant to make the town more competitive in attracting applicants to a department that now employs one person — the chief. It passed 821-273.

In Fayette, residents agreed to change the language of the town’s land use ordinance to comply with state requirements for shoreland zoning, with 420 people in favor of the proposal and 125 opposed.

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