Smith asks for recount; Vermont GOP chair cries foul, accuses Progressives and Democrats of collusion

Annette Smith at Washington Superior Court. Photo by Anne Galloway

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.

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Anne Galloway

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  • Benjamin Eastwood

    This isn’t the first electoral snafu Condos has had this year. Earlier restrictions he placed on the Rocky Anderson campaign were found to be unconstitutional by Judge Michael Kupersmith in Washington County superior court, and Judge Kupersmith granted an injunction against the Sec. State. Mr. Condos then tried to get the Vermont Supreme court to stay the injunction, however the supreme court refused to do so, noting that the state did not have a likelihood of prevailing in the appeal. The state attorney for the case has indicated that Condos will abide by the court order and place Mr. Anderson on the ballot.
    This illustrates clearly why a the secretary of state’s position should not be partisan. Mr. Condos complained that his opponent in the last primary wasn’t partisan enough, but it seems clear that our secretary of state may just be TOO partisan to remain in office. With the problems happening in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Ohio, we need to be vigilant here in Vermont to insure that partisan politics do not threaten the democratic process.
    We deserve better than Katherine Harris style politics here in Vermont. Maybe Mr. Condos should retire to Florida where his brand of electoral integrity is appreciated.

  • Mr Eastwood proceeds to attack me personally because my office follows Vt Law.

    The issue revolves around accepting originals instead of fax/copies for petition signatures. The problems of faxes were demonstrated in the process of tallying the votes for last weeks primary.

    The Attorney General’s office was surprised and disagrees with Judge Kupersmith’s decision and we are following the legal process. We did ask for a stay which was denied (and BTW usually not approved) BUT the VT Supreme Court will hear the case and clarify the issue.

    The Attorney General’s office believes that requiring original documents does not violate the 1st amendment. And the Attorney General is confident on winning this appeal.

    As for Mr Eastwoods claims of partisanship. The Sec of State is elected on a party label and has been since its inception. However, it is ironic that Mr Eastwood shows no partisanship on my part.

    In fact, for this coming election I have won the nominations of the Democrats, Progressives, Working Families, and Republicans. It is precisely because I have reached across the aisle and completed the duties of my office in a non-partisan manner.

    My goal is that every vote counts as voting is the very core of our democracy.

  • Barbara Fenhagen

    This morning I checked with our Town Clerk to see if my vote for Annette had been counted. I learned that it had not and was told that if I had not filled in the oval, it would not have been picked up by the machine. When I asked if, now knowing that I had voted for Ms. Smith, would the ballot be looked over, I was told that there was going to be a recount which was in the hands of the Superior Court and not here locally. I know of several other votes that were cast for Smith and also not counted. A subsequent call to the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office revealed that our votes had been recorded as blanks on our town’s machine tape and should have been reviewed and recorded at the local level per election instructions to all Town Clerks. I was assured that our ballots would be included in the recount. The people I know, including me, are certain that we filled in the oval. Write-in votes, again per the instructions to all town clerks, with or without an oval are valid and should be counted.

  • Charles Karter

    Mr. Condos, where does it say in vermont law, that your not allowed to use copies and you have to use originals. Because as far as I can tell, you just made that up, and the logical reason would be for partisan politics. Also why are you fighting so hard against having candidates on the ballot, opening up democracy is a good thing, Spending taxpayer dollars to limit democracy…. not so much.

  • Benjamin Eastwood

    When I see a foul I call foul. In Mr. Condos’ previous primary challenge, he attacked his opponent for not being partisan enough. In this election, the Progressive party leadership has indicated clearly that the party does not want a Progressive challenger to Peter Shumlin. Martha Abbot mentioned her intention to decline the nomination if she got it during the state committee meeting. At that same meeting, Mr. Condos’ nomination for Sec. State on the Progressive ticket was voted on and accepted.
    Now, this write in candidate, Annette Smith, is within a hairs breadth of upsetting what looks from the outside to be a carefully executed piece of electoral showmanship, and Mr. Condos is in the center ring, conducting the recount. It will be quite something to see the results, and whether or not there are any more “human errors” in this process. I’m just glad we don’t have hanging chads here in Vermont, or this really would look like Florida in 2000…

    • Randy Koch

      Do the Progressives even have it together enough to “carefully execute” anything at this point after they executed an electoral campaign in order to decline an office?

      I don’t think Eastwood’s accusation makes much sense. Plus from the sounds of it, Condos won’t lay a finger on the recount, just the country clerks and the Superior Court judge.

      • Benjamin Eastwood

        I’m not making baseless accusations, I am just posting the events that have happened and trying to make sense of them, and pointing out how when you have partisan officials conducting elections, it is impossible to show impartiality. Believe me, I don’t want to agree with the republican chairman on anything, but the pattern of events this election cycle is hard to dismiss lightly.

        Everything I have listed is accurate. Martha Abbot was even quoted in Boston.com as saying she intended to run and drop out to prevent a Progressive candidate from challenging Shumlin. Here’s the quote and link:

        ‘Vermont’s Progressives, a left-leaning third party, had adopted a strategy of running its chairwoman, Abbott, as a placeholder in the primary, while intending not to have a candidate in the general election and to endorse Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Abbot said the aim of her primary candidacy was merely to block anyone else from jumping in and winning the party’s nomination.’


        It was at the state committee meeting that she said that she was likely to step down, and at that same meeting that Jim Condos got the Prog Nod. Clearly, both the Progs and Dems want Shumlin to have a clear field that doesn’t challenge him from the left.
        Maybe there is no impropriety, and no collusion. It is possible that neither party has any interest in keeping another candidate from debating Shumlin, but there is no way to be sure, and with Condos’ partisan track record,and Martha Abbott’s damning statements, it is not unreasonable to question and to look at the whole election season to get a better picture of the recurring patterns and themes.
        Mr. Condos says his office follows the law, but has yet to identify which laws require the use of originals to check names off the list for presidential candidates. The Judge clearly stated that such a restriction violates the constitution.
        I am not trying to disparage our state, or besmirch either party. I didn’t include the progressive and democratic connection in my original post to avoid unnecessary embarrassment, but Jim himself attacked me for not explaining how he was acting in a partisan manner, so I replied and explained fully.
        In my conversations with the Progressive leadership I proposed the idea that they go ahead and give Ms. Smith the nomination, since there is no one to fill the slot, and let this issue die a quiet death. I didn’t even know she was running, and it is unlikely she will really effect the final tally much, but she does raise issues that deserve to be heard and debated.

  • esteban folsom

    i was disappointed to see that someone would run in a primary,
    fully intending not to pursue to the general election, just to

    stop another from running and representing what’s left of the
    progressive party.

    if ms. abbott supports the democrats – she should fall in with them
    but to deny ms. smith – a chance to speak out – seems disingenuous

  • I would think that Martha Abbot, who is party chair and has been involved with the Progressive Coalition for many years is entitled to decline a run, especially when she declared her intentions all along.
    Meanwhile, Annette Smith has never been involved with the Coalition.
    The Coalition made a tactical decision not to run against Shumlin because he supports and has supported the Coalition’s two major concerns: Single-payer health care and shutting down VT Yankee.
    BTW, the Governor’s support of both of these issues must be terrifying to the Nuclear and Insurance Industries.
    Hmmmm. Conspiracy?

    • Benjamin Eastwood

      When Martha Abbot filed her paperwork to run she had to sign a consent form to put her name on the ballot. If she did not have the intention of running she should not have signed the form, nor gathered the signatures. Everbody that signed her petitions of nomination was thus prevented from endorsing a candidate that would actually run and represent them, because By Vermont law you may only sign as many petitions as there are slots available. I wonder how many folks that signed were aware that she was not intending to run? I know if I had signed and then found out the candidate had no intention of running, I would be upset.
      Isn’t the Progressive Party supposed to be better than this? I really feel that Vermont needs a vibrant and strong progressive party, but instead it seems like it functions as Democrat lite. We need leaders that will stand up for their ideals, not kowtow to the Democrats. Isn’t it better for the Progressive party to run a candidate that will address the issues, and by debating, insure that the Dems will also take up the torch? Business as usual has not gotten Yankee shut down, has not protected our ridge lines, has not prevented the F-35, and has not protected our right to know what we are eating by labeling GMO’s. We need to keep the pressure up on the presumptive party of power, to insure that they do not neglect the needs of the people. That is the purpose of a strong 3rd party. If the Progressives will not stand up to be counted, then another party will come in to fill the vacuum.

  • esteban folsom

    well bob
    that may be true about abbott and smith
    oddly enough that’s exactly what i said
    when i shook the governors hand before the election
    shut it down and single payer – everyone covered

    why someone would run – just to silence another
    is symptomatic of a party at a dead end, in my view

    oh yeah
    i can assure you – they are not scared of anyone

    • Tiki Archambeau

      Your allegation is that Martha Abbott ran “just to silence another.”

      However, Abbott was in the race and followed the electoral process long before Annette Smith entered the race. Smith, on the other hand, chose to run on the Progressive ticket despite doing nothing to appeal to Progressives at-large. She has one issue alone to sound off about. In fact, I would argue that Smith’s approach is riskier to the Progressive platform than Abbott’s.

      So the question comes back to you: Why not consider Smith’s single-issue campaign an act of silencing the many Progressive voices who voted for Abbott?

      • Benjamin Eastwood

        It’s not my allegation, it is Martha Abbot’s own words. If Martha hadn’t actually said her intention was to block another person from running, that would be one thing, but in the boston.com article I linked to above she is quoted as that being her intention. That was what she did last election too, and at the state committee meeting she also said she was unlikely to run. There is a difference between making allegations and stating facts and presenting evidence, which I have done. To be a candidate, you sign a form saying you are willing to run. If you sign that form with the intention of not running, you are lying. Draw your own conclusions, make your own allegations.

        Actually, Annette’s issues: Limiting industrial wind in favor of more sustainable and locally controllable community wind are in line with many Progressives. Her other issue, stopping the F-35 project is also in line with many progressives, including some of the candidates. I am sure she also want’s to close Yankee down, as it is the single biggest environmental threat in VT.

        The really sad thing is that her inclusion in the debates is really unlikely to actually change the final outcome much. Most people in VT, myself included, will likely vote for Peter Shumlin. What including her in the debates does is give a voice to folks that have valid concerns about industrial wind projects and whether or not they are sustainable or environmentally sound, the sovereignty of power generated in VT and whether the power generated in VT stays here or is exported for corporate profit (like the large hydro projects owned by Canadian corporations, which could produce enough electricity to power a large part of our state, but instead the power is sold to other states…). These are valid questions.
        I don’t think most Progressives want the F-35 project to proceed either. This project has divided the cities of South Burlington and Winooski, and will displace thousands of people or force them to live in zones that the military reports say will not be suitable for habitation. It forwards the military industrial complex, and does not make VT skies safer. In fact, it just adds the Burlington Airport to VT Yankee as likely terrorist targets. These are both issues that Shumlin is ignoring, and that deserve to be heard at the debates.

      • esteban folsom

        ok tiki
        it sounds as if some of you voted for someone
        that is not actually in the race, for governor

        please tell me how this furthers the discussion
        in any way that could possible matter, to us all

  • Fred Woogmaster

    The two party machine, and the obscene money that fuels it, is asphyxiating democracy as it diminishes the liberty of those without financial resources. I will support any legitimate challenge to that machine. Annette Smith represents that kind of challenge.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    While Annette Smith has been most associated with environmental causes I believe her not to be a “single issue” candidate but rather that the single issue is representative of a much broader one. It will be our loss if her voice cannot be heard in the debates. If Governor Shumlin and Senator Brock agreed to include her – would it happen?