MONTPELIER — Officials in courts across the state will recount the Progressive Party’s primary ballots for governor next week so a Montpelier judge can determine whether Martha Abbott’s narrow victory will stand.
Washington County Judge Robert Bent issued the order Friday for a recount, which requires two election officials from each city or town to transport all ballots cast in the primary to their respective county clerks.
Bent will declare the winner. The secretary of state’s office anticipates announcing the results as early as Thursday or Friday, said the state’s director of elections and campaign finance, Kathy Scheele.
“It’s all under the control of the judge,” Scheele said.
Bent granted the recount at the request of write-in candidate Annette Smith, who was determined to have lost to Abbott by one vote.
Recounts will occur in civil courts in each county starting at 9 a.m. Thursday. Election officials will count ballots in the Progressive primary by hand unless otherwise notified.
The state expects some 54,000 to 55,000 ballots could be sorted within four to six hours to find the roughly 1,000 Progressive Party ballots that will be recounted.
Local and state representatives have suggested a recount may swing in Smith’s favor.
The recount was not an option when results of the race were certified Tuesday, a week after the primary. Those figures showed Abbott defeated Smith 371-354. However, three supporters of Smith’s campaign visited the secretary of state’s office Wednesday and pointed out discrepancies in results from Walden and Hardwick. The state corrected the results Thursday, which made the race close enough for Smith to request a recount.
The margin of defeat must be within 2 percent of the total votes cast for the losing candidate to request a recount. In this case that meant 15 votes or less.
After evidence of the problems surfaced, Secretary of State Jim Condos said human error was the cause and that he wanted to make sure every vote counted.
Other recounts have produced similar drama.
In 2010, then-Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin held onto a narrow margin after Sen. Doug Racine requested a recount of the Democratic gubernatorial primary results.
In 2006, a recount was held in the state auditor race between Thomas Salmon and then-incumbent Randy Brock, where around 250,000 votes were cast. An official count showed Salmon lost by 137 votes, which the recount turned into a win by 102 votes.
To further complicate this year’s ballot process, the secretary of state’s office has voiced concerns about meeting the federal deadline for sending military and overseas absentee ballots. Early voting for those groups begins Sept. 22, Condos said.
His office had wanted to send some ballots to a designated printer by Wednesday next week, but now state staffers will have to prepare the ballots and wait until the recount determines which name to insert for the Progressive Party’s gubernatorial candidate.
Condos said the state will then provide copies of the final ballots to town clerks, which they will print off themselves if needed before the officially printed ballots arrive.
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