Annette Smith lost by just one vote in the Progressive primary race for governor, according to a new canvassing report from the Secretary of State’s office.
The new results showed she had 370 votes, while her opponent Martha Abbott, the Progressive Party chair, received 371 ballots cast.
Smith, who was drafted in the race by supporters as a write-in candidate, immediately went to Washington Superior Court to request a recount.
Smith, an environmentalist and anti-wind advocate, is pursuing the recount because she wants an opportunity to debate Gov. Peter Shumlin who has been a proponent of industrial wind power.
Abbott was declared the winner on Tuesday, and she immediately said she would not compete in a three-way contest with state Sen. Randy Brock, the Republican in the race, and Gov. Peter Shumlin, the Democratic incumbent because she supports Shumlin.
The new canvassing report was ordered by Jim Condos, the Vermont Secretary of State, on Wednesday. Condos said human errors had been made in the certification of votes from two towns — Walden and Hardwick.
Meanwhile, the chair of the Vermont Republican Party is crying foul.
Jack Lindley, chair of the party, says the way the primary election was handled suggests there was collusion between the Shumlin campaign and the Progressive Party nominee, who has “miraculously has been declared a winner by a suspect process, who has now announced she didn’t really want the nomination after all; a person who has since declared she will decline a nomination she won in favor of Governor Shumlin.”
On Thursday Lindley wanted to remove the GOP signature of approval from the original canvassing report, which was issued and signed on Tuesday, but he was told by a representative from the Vermont Attorney General’s office that he was not permitted to do so under state statute.
He declared that “this entire process has served to cast doubt on the validity, accuracy and accountability of the Secretary of State’s office and the whole election process.”
Lindley says he won’t waive a five-day notification rule that would allow the Secretary of State’s office to ensure that overseas military personnel receive ballots in time for the General Election. He said the onus is on Condos to prove that the five-day period would in fact have an impact on overseas ballots. All three major parties must approve the waiver in order for it to go into effect.
The Secretary of State said Lindley was trying to score political points.
“I would not understand why anyone would want to slow the process down at this point,” Condos said. “The only thing I can think of is politics.”
In an interview with reporters, Condos said he called for the new canvassing report as soon as he found out there were anomalies because he “wanted to make it right.” He said he took full responsibility for the mistakes that were made, even though he had no control over the town reports.
“Our job is to get this right,” Condos said. “I’m the chief elections officer, therefore I’ll take the heat for this.”
“Every vote should count,” he continued. “Voting is the basis of our democracy.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:31 a.m. Sept. 7.