State Auditor recount begins

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(Host) The official recount of this year’s Auditor’s contest began this morning at court houses throughout the state.

Only 137 votes separate Republican incumbent Randy Brock and his Democratic challenger Tom Salmon out of more than a quarter of million votes cast on Election Day.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Counter) “Salmon, Brock “

(Kinzel) This is the first recount of a statewide race since the U.S. Senate election in 1980 and it’s a slow and deliberative process.

The scene in Washington County Superior Court is similar to events taking place in Vermont’s other 13 counties.

There were 7 tables in a small conference room with 4 people sitting at each table. Two individuals represent the Democratic Party and two represent the Republican Party.

Each person has a specific job. After the court clerk has unlocked ballots from a specific voting district, the ballots are placed into groups of 50 and a packet is delivered to each table.

A representative of each party must agree that there are 50. If they do, one person then reviews each ballot and calls out the name of the candidate marked on the ballot. One representative from each Party keeps a running tally of the votes.

(Counter) “Are you ready over there ? I’m ready on the right! Brock, Brock, Brock, Brock, Salmon ..”

(Kinzel) Once all the ballots have been examined, the vote counters have to agree on the official tally. If they don’t, they have to repeat the process. If they do agree, they recount the ballots. But this time a person of the opposite party reviews the ballots.

Sometimes the voter’s intent is in doubt. Perhaps the voter put a check after the candidate’s name instead of filling in a circle. If this happens the four people at the table confer.

(Counter) “What was that Salmon?”
(Counter) “Salmon! Would you like to look at it?”
(Counter) “It’s a right handed person!”

(Kinzel) Once the group agrees on the vote total, they return the ballots to the court clerk and then they start the process over with a new stack of 50 ballots.

(Counter) “Looks like we agree. So now it’s your turn!”

(Kinzel) Former Transportation Secretary Art Ristau is a Democratic vote counter. He had the same job 26 years ago for the U.S. Senate recount. He says the process then was much different.

(Ristau) “The disparity is quite significant. There were two of us involved in that endeavor. It took us less than a week to go through a comparable number of ballots. I guess probably between 10 and 11 thousand here. And we were advised that this process is going to take probably twice that long and involve innumerably more people than was the case in 1980.”

(Kinzel) Election officials are hoping that the statewide recount will be completed in most counties by the end of next week.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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