Condos Says Absentee Ballots May Delay Election Results
11/03/12 8:30AM By Kirk Carapezza
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There's just one day to go before voters in Vermont head to the polls, but we may not know the outcome of some very close races the day after the election. That's because Vermont has extended the deadline for military and overseas voters to return their absentee ballots.
Secretary of State Jim Condos says the results in some tight down-ticket races might not come into focus until Thanksgiving.
"There are probably several races at the local level - the House rep races, perhaps even a senate race - which may be very close number of votes." Condos says.
A setback in certifying the state's Progressive Party gubernatorial primary because of a recount delayed the delivery of ballots to town clerks.
Inside his spacious Montpelier office across the street from the Statehouse, Condos says he didn't receive the final court order settling the Progressive Party race until September 18th. Some town officials say that didn't leave them enough time to send ballots to members of the military and overseas voters 45 days before the election, which is required under federal law.
"We did get a PDF of those ballots to the town clerks by the 21st," Condos explains. "In fact, most of them had it by the 20th."
Since then, Condos - the only statewide official running unopposed by a major party - admits that it's been a tough few weeks: "It has been frustrating, but my role is to facilitate and work through the problems."
Condos reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department last month to extend the deadline for counting the military and overseas ballots to November 16th. He says the number of ballots in this category is quite small - just 200 didn't go out by the deadline. Still, some political scientists say the ballots could affect elections that are too close to call.
"It's possible," says Middlebury College Professor Eric Davis, who has characterized the treasurer's race as the only competitive race for statewide office this year.
"If the race between Beth Pearce and Wendy Wilton is very close, or perhaps even more likely, if there are some legislative races that are very close, these outstanding absentee ballots could make the difference," Davis says.
It wouldn't be the first time: In 2010, Vermont had two House members who won by one vote. And in the 2006 auditors race, there was a 300-vote swing between Republican Randy Brock and then-Democrat Tom Salmon.