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Wilton: The Recount Is Political

Democrats and Progressives in the Vermont House of Representatives have voted to recount the close election of Chelsea Republican Representative Bob Frenier for the second time. Frenier's election was confirmed by a recount run by the Orange County Court clerk with the assistance of two town clerks who had experience with vote tabulators. But in an appeal of that recount Frenier’s opponent - former Progressive-Democrat Rep. Susan Hatch Davis - petitioned the legislature for yet another recount.

Hatch Davis justified doing so by claiming absentee ballots may have been treated differently by different town clerks in the original election, and ballots had not been inspected for stray marks on the paper before being inserted into the vote tabulator machines for counting.

However, Thetford Town Clerk Stacy Borst, who participated in the recount, issued a statement that ballots were inspected - even though Vermont law doesn’t require it.

Further, the legislative committee investigating the recount never contacted Borst or the other recount officials to testify how the recount actually had been handled.

This third count of the votes will be done by legislators themselves, according to rules of the legislators’ own making - not by election professionals. And it will not be conducted according to election statutes. In fact, the majority party specifically rejected a proposed minority party amendment that would have required any further vote counting to be conducted according to Vermont law.

Some believe legislators are using their constitutional right to rule on the “qualifications and elections” of its members to count the votes for a third time in hopes of overturning the result so as to secure a veto-proof majority in the legislature.

But the potential damage of this legislative interference in Vermont’s election process could be considerable. It’s hard to imagine any losing candidate in a future close election accepting the outcome of a court certified recount if they can take their grievances to the legislature.

Unless House leaders abandon this plan for a third counting of the ballots by those same legislators who bypassed existing law and voted for this option along party lines, Vermont voters will no longer be able to trust that their votes will always be counted in a fair and non-partisan way.

There’s a time to put principle above politics – and one of those times is now.

Wendy Wilton has been treasurer of the City of Rutland since 2007, achieving clean audits since 2012. She cares deeply about the financial strength of the state and its communities.
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