Abbott Wins Progressive Nomination, Smith Might Challenge

09/04/12 5:50PM By John Dillon
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AP/Toby Talbot
Republican Marty Searight, left, looks over the certification of the official results of the August primary on Tuesday in Montpelier.

A write in campaign to run a Progressive Party challenger against Governor Peter Shumlin has fallen short, but the loser and her supporters say they may challenge the results in court

Backers of environmental activist Annette Smith say there were voting irregularities in several towns.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Party nominee Martha Abbott declined her party's nomination for governor after being declared the winner.

Party Chairwoman Martha Abbott won by 17 votes over write-in candidate Annette Smith. But Abbott says the party decided not to run against incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin because he's championed single payer health care and closing Vermont Yankee.

Abbott said in a statement that her party must be "strategic" about which races it chooses to enter.

"After talking with Progressives throughout the state, it is clear that most want to stay out of the governor's race this year," she said.

Meanwhile, Smith and her supporters aren't satisfied with the outcome or the voting process.

Calais lawyer Stephanie Kaplan said she's heard from Smith supporters in several towns who say their votes didn't show up in the results.

"There are several different ways of challenging this and we're going to look into it," she said.

Kaplan and others wanted Smith to debate Governor Peter Shumlin on issues such as ridgeline wind development and his support for basing F-35 fighter jets at the Burlington airport.

"The idea was so that somebody would be raising these issues and challenging Shumlin in areas where he's just refused to engage," she said.

Annette Smith says Secretary of State Jim Condos needs to sort it out the alleged voting irregularities. She says the ballot supplied by his office told voters who wanted to write in a name to also fill in an oval on the ballot sheet. But she says Vermont election law only requires that a name be written in. So Smith wonders if all the votes for her were tallied by town clerks.

"For the people who counted, if they threw out everything that didn't have an oval colored in, then that's the secretary of state's fault," Smith said. "So I would think it would be in the secretary of state's interest to simply ask for a recount."

Condos calls that concern a red herring. He says town clerks and members of boards of civil authority are trained to determine voter intent.

"Yes, that's what the instruction is, and actually it's a fail safe to tell the clerks and the BCA that there are so many write in ballots," he said. "But, one of the processes that the BCA goes through after an election is over is they go through all the ballots to make sure that something isn't missed."

Condos says he can't ask for a recount. Only the candidate can do that. And he says Smith didn't get enough votes to be eligible.

Yet any voter can go to superior court and challenge the results, if he or she believes problems have occurred.

But Condos is worried that a lawsuit would delay the process of printing the ballots and mailing them to people in the military - which he hoped to do next week.

"If there is a court challenge or a recount at this point we would have a severe time constraint based on the timing for meeting the federal government's mandate on ballots reaching the military and overseas voters," he said.

Condos says the timeline is tight, and he may have to ask the Legislature next year to move up the date of the August primary.



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