Progressive Primary Will Be Recounted

09/06/12 5:50PM By John Dillon
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Newly corrected election results show environmental activist Annette Smith lost the Progressive Party nomination for governor by one vote.

The new numbers were certified after Secretary of State Jim Condos discovered errors made in tabulating votes submitted by two towns.

Smith has requested a recount in the race. And the recount makes a tight timeframe even tighter for ballots to be printed and mailed to military and overseas voters.

The new results were the latest twist in a cliffhanger Progressive primary. The state canvassing committee had to meet for the second time this week to review election results. Kathy Scheele, the state director of elections, told the panel that she learned Wednesday about the missing votes. 

"The new totals are 371 for Martha Abbott and 370 for Annette Smith," Scheele said.

Earlier in the week, the results showed Smith lost by 17 votes, above the 2 percent margin that would allow her to request a recount.

The new numbers reflect changes in the vote count in the towns of Hardwick and Walden.

With the new results in hand, Smith walked down the street to file a recount petition in Washington County Superior Court. She said she hopes the recount can be accomplished quickly. Smith has asked the court to waive a five-day notification period for the candidates.

"At this point my interest is ensuring that we have a fair election and that the integrity of Vermont's election is upheld," she said.

Smith's candidacy was pushed by activists opposed to large-scale wind projects and basing F-35 fighter jets in Burlington.

Smith is executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment. She did not call herself a candidate, because she said she was concerned that getting involved in a political campaign could threaten her organization's non-profit status. Smith says she is a candidate for the purpose of the recount.

Secretary of State Jim Condos says human errors were to blame for the wrong vote numbers. Seven votes for Smith from Walden were not counted initially. Nine votes for her from Hardwick were also missed.

Condos said he took responsibility for the errors.

"I'm the chief elections officer so the buck stops with me," he said. "Did I actually make the mistake? No. But I'll take the heat for it. It occurred. I can't change that. What we're trying to do is make it right."

Condos said he hopes the recount process can be done quickly because he's trying to get general election ballots printed, proofed and delivered to town clerks by September 21. The next day is the federal deadline for ballots to be mailed to overseas and military voters.

"We suspect that this will take no more than a day to do the actual recount but it may take a couple of days to get ready for it. So that is going to put us into a crimp," he said.

Stephanie Kaplan is a Smith supporter who helped organize the write in campaign. She said she pointed out the errors in the Walden results earlier this week but they were not corrected immediately.

"There's a lot of confusion that the Secretary of State's office needs to work harder to clean up," she said. "And also in terms of just counting, I just don't understand how people just can't add. And you would think there would be just be more care taken, that's all, in making sure that these numbers are right."

Walden and Hardwick may not be only towns where votes were miscounted. Middlesex resident Dennis Darrah said he wrote in Smith's name, yet the results submitted by the town clerk showed no votes for Smith for governor on the Progressive ballot. Darrah supports Smith's call for a recount.

"There should be a recount across Vermont in this," he said. "And I also would like to just know in Middlesex whether my ballot was a mistake on my part or whether there was a mistake in reading it, or whether there was some confusion about how to fill in a write-in. And that may clarify the voting process in the future."

Meanwhile, Vermont Republican Party Chairman Jack Lindley said he would not support the revised canvass committee report on the primary election. He said the new results cast doubt of the accuracy and accountability of the Secretary of State's office.

Condos disputed the charge, and said Lindley was trying to score political points.





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