Super Tuesday recap: Vermont GOP chair wants “examination” of voter irregularities; Ron Paul siphons ballots from Romney

Secretary of State Jim Condos. File Photo VTD/Josh Larkin

Secretary of State Jim Condos. File Photo VTD/Josh Larkin

GOP presidential primary candidate Mitt Romney won Vermont as predicted, but he came up short when it came down to nailing delegates. The former Massachusetts governor garnered 39 percent of the vote, 11 points short of the 50 percent he needed to grab all 17 delegates from the Green Mountain State. In the end, Romney walked away with 11 Vermonters on his delegate tally.

Longtime political observer Eric Davis says Romney’s shortfall was consistent with his performance in other states where he has seen sharp competition from his rivals. Rick Santorum has attracted socially conservative voters in the Midwest, and even in Vermont won 23.5 percent of the vote. Romney’s Libertarian rival, Ron Paul, did particularly well, Davis says, because his anti-war message resonated with independent voters and enabled him to siphon off votes. Paul received 25.6 percent of the primary ballots in Vermont, according to unofficial statewide election numbers.

The new chair of the local GOP, however, is blaming the Secretary of State’s office for Romney’s unfavorable results. John Lindley, a Romney supporter and longtime Vermont Republican who has been on the job as chair for just a few weeks, says he wants the Vermont Secretary of State to examine alleged poll reporting irregularities. Lindley says a new state reporting system for municipal officials led to anomalous results that were posted on the Secretary of State’s website Tuesday night. He stopped short, however, of calling for a formal probe.

“I’m not asking for an investigation,” Lindley said. “I’m asking for an examination by the Secretary of State whose principal responsibility is to validate the integrity of the ballot in Vermont.”

The state, for the first time, asked town clerks to voluntarily submit unofficial polling results to a password-protected website. About 70 percent of polls were reporting online. Complete results will not be certified by the Secretary of State’s office until next Tuesday.

Jim Condos, Secretary of State, said the new election results website page for the presidential primary is a pilot project. Condos said he was very pleased with the high percentage of responses from town clerks, and he hopes to offer unofficial vote counts for statewide races in the fall. There was some confusion, however, on Tuesday because his staff hadn’t removed test results for some towns in advance of Town Meeting Day.

“The mistake the GOP made yesterday was they were thinking these were official results — they weren’t,” Condos said. “It’s hard not to think it’s sour grapes. They thought Romney would take 50 percent, and they’re looking to blame somebody and they’re blaming our office.”

Lindley, an insurance broker from Burlington, applauds the secretary’s attempt to bring elections into the 21st century, but he questions the way the secretary’s office conducted its “experiment.” He cited three examples of municipalities — Eden, Grand Isle and South Hero — that reported vote counts on the state website that differed from those used by CNN, which was also tracking town by town reports. Lindley complained that John Huntsman, a GOP primary candidate who dropped out weeks ago, at one point on the site appeared to have won in South Hero — even though Romney took the race with 43 percent of the vote.

“Obviously the Secretary of State’s site was not accurate,” Lindley said. “Their response was this was an unofficial tally. I’m not sure what kind of system we’re running here, either we have it right or we don’t.”

About 800 provisional Burlington ballots, including about 200 that weren’t matched with Social Security cards or driver’s licenses, Lindley says, should have been challenged by Republican candidate for mayor, Kurt Wright. He also says local officials haven’t scrubbed the checklist of ineligible voters and consequently, as many as 7,000 new voters are on the rolls.

“Any party would have an opportunity to challenge provisional ballots and they’ve walked away with that, which I think is regrettable,” Lindley said. “So what have we got? We don’t even know if they’re Americans.”

Davis, a retired professor emeritus of political science from Middlebury College, says the Secretary of State’s online reporting was accurate. He compared the state’s town by town results with those used by CNN, which came from the Associated Press.

“I don’t see any evidence of irregularities in the way ballots were counted,” Davis said. “I don’t see any of the things Republicans said were occurring.”

Romney’s real problem, Davis said, was Ron Paul, who won close to 100 towns. Independent voters who live north of Routes 2 and 302 and tend to be Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters were more likely to vote for Paul over Romney. That’s in part because Paul, a noninterventionist libertarian, ran as a “candidate for peace” — he wants American troops pulled out of Afghanistan.

Paul would not have upset the apple cart, however, if Democrats and independents hadn’t voted in the Republican presidential primary, Davis said. Though there was no evidence that the Democratic Party organized a get out the Santorum vote, but it was clear, he said, that the primary attracted a lot of independents. Exit polls show that about 49 percent of the presidential primary voters were Republican, 41 percent were independents and 10 percent were Democrats, Davis says. About 31,536 Vermonters cast ballots for President Barack Obama on the Democratic ticket; 45,366 voters participated in the Republican primary.

Putney, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s hometown, overwhelmingly supported Santorum. Davis suspects the votes came from Democrats.

“If Vermont had a closed primary, and we had to limited ballots to Republicans only Romney would have come in at 50 percent,” Davis said.

Romney cleared the 50 percent barrier in only 20 towns in Vermont, most of which are in the Massachusetts border counties.

His performance in Vermont mirrored that of other states. Romney barely won Ohio and the only states that gave him a clear majority were Massachusetts, where he was a one-term governor, and Idaho and Nevada, which have large blocks of Mormon voters. (He is a Mormon.)

Condos said the presidential primary was a good test, and he hopes to start ramping up the online reporting system for the statewide races in the General Election primary on Aug. 28. By Election Day, he hopes to have results “down to the House of Representatives level.” In January, he wants to ask the Legislature to consider making online reporting a requirement, and in 2013, Condos hopes to make the online reporting system available for local races.

Anne Galloway

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  • The state should not be in the business of funding and running partisan political party functions. The state should not be in the political party primary business – period.

    As long as every taxpayer (including anti-Republican Party/anti-Democratic Party me) has to fund these games, then every taxpayer should be able to play on the team they choose – without interference from the Republicans or anybody else.

    Stop whining.

  • merry shernock

    I hope that we do not have to spend a dime on this.
    The GOP primary has been characterized as a “circular firing squad” and has produced nothing but bad feeling.
    Spending money on an examination, or even casting aspersions will only generate more bad feeling.

    Vermonters are free to crossover and sometimes this is an opportunity to make mischief.
    It happened when Fred Tuttle ran in the GOP guv primary.
    And in this election, some Vermonters did it again.

    Or so I have heard.

    Four voters in my town told me they crossed over. Two said they voted for Ron Paul; one for Sick Rantorum and one for Jon Huntsman (who was on our ballot even tho he has dropped out).

    Jes sayin’

  • Jessica Bernier

    The Ron Paul grassroots out-organized the Romney campaign and GOP apparatchik. Romney thought he could waltz into Vermont, pick up a bunch of GOP endorsements early in the game and walk away with a victory with no real campaign.

    If it wasn’t for the grassroots Ron Paul supporters who raised and spent our own money to educate the electorate about our candidate, make sure his message was heard and read, Romney probably would have won. We did not allow that to happen. Suck it up.

    What we did we did with very little official Paul campaign support. It was only a week before the primary that any ads were shown on tv. The Paul campaign recognized how organized we were on the ground and made an investment. It was clear in the few days leading up to the primary that Romney’s campaign was nervous about taking VT for granted, putting on their own tv ads, bringing in Sununu and rolling out Barbara Bush robo-calls.

    The VT GOP should learn a big lesson from this. We are here, we’ve been here, we work not only every 4 years, but year round at the state level, and we’re not going anywhere. We are willing to work night and day to support a candidate worthy of that commitment.

    We will never vote for Romney. We will never vote for Santorum. We will never vote for Gingrich. We are the 25%.

  • Frank Davis

    John Lindley is a cultured representative of the Vermont Republicans, he certainly promotes a fine whine. NOWHERE has Romney been annointed by overwhelming majorities by his own party in the primary process. What on earth makes Lindley think it would happen here? Sure, blame the Democrats, the Progressives and the independents. That will absolutely endear non-hardcore Republicans to your candidates in November. In the words of Bugs Bunny, “What a maroon!”

  • Ed Deegan

    It is interesting that Lindley is basically trying to use voter suppression techniques to get the results he wants. Challenging voters rights on ballots in Burlington? This is Vermont I don’t think voter fraud is an issue.

  • Greg Lapworth

    Face it GOP Chairman there aren’t any IRREGULARITIES, you have garbage for candidates running. Look in the mirror and see who is to blame. We had no choice but Ron Paul. Wake up or there will be a third party.
    Secretary of State Condos, please do not spend a penny in answer to this “whining sniveling gits” rants.

  • Karl Riemer

    Here’s one way to look at it:
    primary elections are organized by political parties and candidates so elected belong to those parties. But we voters are Vermonters, we don’t “belong” to parties, we “belong” to ourselves and vote for whom we please. In Vermont, because it’s Vermont, everyone’s an Independent. Long may it wave.

  • sterling bushnell

    its long past time to dump our 110 year trail of the primary system, its a joke and corrupt and we as a nation and citizens should demand a better way.

    we need a amendment that puts all caucuses and primaries 60 days from the november elections

  • Stan Hopson

    The Ron Paulians are so enamored with themselves and their
    “organization”. While Paul resonates with many on his sound money rants, he is WHOLLY UNELECTABLE. Period.

    Romney invested in this state early with organization and pursued endorsements. As someone who knows Jessica, Team Romney was rolling out Sununu and Bush robocalls 60 days ago. Many, and I do mean many, of the Paul supporters will go back to Obamaland after Paul is forced to bow out after Romney is elected President.

    Love the enthusiasm, but they just don’t play well with others. Maybe go start your own 25% club and continue on the fringes, I guess.

  • walter moses

    sec. of st. Condos, please do not spend one thin dime on Lindley’s search for irregularities. i’m with Jessica Beinier on this issue. i won’t vote for Romney if he gives me one of Anne’s cadillacs. talk about a circular firing squad, Ron Paul is the only republican you can believe. Mr. Lindley: Get Lost.

  • We didn’t write the rules; they weren’t designed to favor us; but we played under them and won Ron Paul some delegates fair and square. We had a more visible presence in the state leading up to the election, and more appeal to people who don’t see much of a difference between big-gov’t, pro-war Republicans and big-gov’t, pro-war Democrats.

    Mitt Romney may be unelectable without Ron Paul supporters–and certainly without the independents and some of the Democrats you fault for backing Paul in this primary–so perhaps Team Romney should take a page from their leader and try to play well with “the heart and soul of conservatism.”

    Don’t be sore winners.

  • Cliff Hutchison

    Dear Stan Hopson,

    You can insult us “Ron Paulians” and repeat all the tired propaganda (like “he is WHOLLY UNELECTABLE. Period.”) that you want and we will ignore you and continue to campaign and win delegates, like the Paul campaign did in Vermont.

    But when you combine a lie and a spin to distort something that anyone can see from reading, you must be called out on it.

    Jessica Bernier was not writing about Sununu robocalls, and is therefore not wrong when she wrote that Romney’s campaign was “bringing in Sununu” in the last few days before the primary. This can be checked by a simple websearch:

    All of the news stories confirm that it was on February 29th, 6 days before the primary, that Sununu visted Vermont to stump for Romney.

    When you write that “As someone who knows Jessica, Team Romney was rolling out Sununu and Bush robocalls 60 days ago”, you are cowardly inferring that Jessica lied, when she in fact did not. There may have been Sununu robocalls 60 days ago, but that is not what Jessica was referring to.

    Perhaps you missed the difference in your haste at penning such a blazing dismissal of her and “the Ron Paulians”, or perhaps you purposefully distort the difference like I’ve seen others do over and over again on other topics in this election. It matters not.

    In the end, your insults, lies and distortions will not succeed in keeping our party (the Republican party, in case you need clarification) from moving forward toward liberty, prosperity and peace.

    Your distortion is just another example of the bitter desperation that always comes from the status quo while it’s losing it’s grip on power, just like Sununu’s comments about inviting the Democrat vote in an open Republican primary (Doesn’t that happen in his home state of New Hampshire every time the Republican primary is the only one contested?).

    Even if Paul is not President this time next year, we will win party positions, like we already have in Iowa, and we will win in 2014 and beyond, while those who cling to power for it’s own sake shrivel into the dust of history.

    It’s your choice to make, but as for me, I choose liberty.


    Cliff Hutchison

  • Jessica Bernier

    I still think it’s funny that it’s somehow mischief behind the Paul numbers and yet we’re supposed to believe that Rick Santorum did as well as he did without the Democrats! In Putney, even! (my sides ache!)

    Sorry, Stan, I have no idea who you are– am I supposed to? Why do you resent the Ron Paul support? Isn’t he a Republican? What are you so afraid of anyway?

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