Abbott wins recount; Smith will run anyway

Martha Abbott, the chair of the Progressive Party, and John Franco, an attorney, appear in Washington Superior Court on Sept. 17, 2012. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana
Martha Abbott, the chair of the Progressive Party, and John Franco, an attorney, appear in Washington Superior Court on Sept. 17, 2012. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana

A Washington County Superior Court judge today announced preliminary results from the recount for the Progressive gubernatorial race, which showed Progressive Party chair Martha Abbott leading write-in challenger Annette Smith by 381-340.

Final results will come tomorrow, as Judge Robert Bent examines five questioned ballots at a brief court hearing where concerned parties can raise objections about the recount process: but the overall outcome already seems certain. A total of 994 votes statewide were cast, according to recount figures.

Annette Smith plans to run for governor as a write-in candidate in any case, even if she isn’t placed on a major party line. “I’m just going to continue,” said Smith, after hearing the preliminary results. “I mean, the Prog thing has a lot of baggage with it, and this [method] would not guarantee me a seat in the debates.”

But, Smith said, she’d already been invited to a debate in Bennington on Oct. 11, an invitation which Randy Brock had also accepted. Alex MacLean, campaign manager for Peter Shumlin, says the governor will not be attending. The debate would be on Mike Bethel’s “Bennington Tonight” TV show.

Smith said she planned to run because she saw a clear need for “a candidate of the people” in the race as opposed to a traditional politician. “If there’s a popular uprising out there, I’m going to give people a chance to express it.”

Asked whether she’d bring positive policy proposals to the table, Smith answered instead that she’d bring “process proposals,” designed to give people a voice in in the public process.

The most significant error discovered through the recount came via a typo made by an elections official in the Secretary of State’s office, who mistakenly typed 58 – instead of the actual 5 – votes for Smith, in the Orleans County town of Westfield.

Meanwhile, Abbott said she was happy with the preliminary results, but was awaiting the definitive count tomorrow. Until then, she continued, the recount, whatever the outcome, signaled to her that the Progressive Party still “has something of value, something that people want to participate in.”

The outcome, she said, shows first, that “we have something of value that people would like to use, if you will,” and secondly, “that there’s a lot of interest. Hopefully that will signal more participation for the party in the future.”

Abbott confirmed she’d still decline the party’s nomination to run if she won tomorrow.

Smith also took issue with a procedural problem in Chittenden County, where a minor controversy occurred over whether to count votes written ‘Smith’ or ‘A. Smith’ as votes in her favor.

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Nat Rudarakanchana

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  • Ben Eastwood

    Hmm, more problems from the Sec. State’s office… 58-5… that’s only 53 votes off, 53 out of 994, that’s like 95% accurate (or does that 994 include the 53 extra votes too?) Of course, that puts the 41 vote difference between Smith and Abbott well within the sec. state’s margin of error…
    Another interesting question emerges: supposedly 994 people voted in the progressive primary, but only 721 voted for these 2 candidates, which leaves 273 votes unaccounted for. That means that about 27% of the folks that voted in the Progressive Primary wrote someone else in, which is an unprecedentedly high number of write in votes…
    Thank you Jim Condos, for turning an otherwise dull electoral process into a thrilling whodunnit of comic proportions. Abbott and Condostello meet the voters…

    • Avram Patt

      There is nothing unusual about the 27% that did not vote for either Smith or Abbott. Having counted paper ballots in 2 small towns for a combined 30 years or so, I will bet that the majority of those were blank, not a write in for someone else. People who took a Progressive ballot but did not vote in that race.

      • Kathy Leonard

        Correct. I was a recounter and that’s the case.

        • Ben Eastwood

          It doesn’t say 994 ballots, it says 994 votes statewide. The average write in percentage is way down in the single digits. Perhaps it is just a poorly chosen wording by the author of the article, and when they said votes they meant ballots.
          If that is the case, it would help if the author clarified. Mr. Rudarakanchana, were there 994 votes cast, or 994 ballots cast?
          If that is the case, where over 27% of the folks that voted in this election didn’t vote on this candidate, then that is a shame, folks that don’t vote are the only ones that throw their votes away.
          Also, how many votes were cast for Annette in the Democratic and Republican primaries? Mr. Condos is running as a DRP candidate, because VT allows fusion candidates. Many folks say they were told by the elections officials at their polling place that they could vote for Annette Smith on the Dem ticket and it would count for her, so they voted there, because they wanted to vote for Bill Sorrell or Tj Donovan. Who’s to say which election folks would have thought was more important if they had been given accurate information, that their votes for Annette would be to put her as a Dem. Are there any numbers for how many Smith votes were cast in the Dem primary due to bad information given out by the elections staff?

  • MJ Farmer

    Reply to Avram, Unless you were told during the recount, not to count A. Smith, Smith, Ann Smith Anna Smith, anything other than Annette Smith.

    • Avram Patt

      Every Progressive ballot in the state was examined in the recount. Any inconsistencies in instructions local ballot counters were given about write-ins would have been ironed out in the recount, which is why I understood the recount was done.

      In both towns where I’ve counted ballots, we always understood that if the intent of the voter is clear on a paper ballot, then that’s how it’s counted. This was an unusual situation in that it’s unusual to have a statewide write-in effort in a party primary where only a small number of otes are cast in total. It does point out some problems with the consistency of instructions counters are given. I would guess that those incosistencies have been around for a long time, but were brought into focus by this race. I assume this will be addressed for future elections.

      (With that said, there needs to be a reasonable expectation that voters who want to write in a name, when there is an organized campaign, are informed enough to know the name of the person that they are voting for. Simply writing as common a last name as “Smith,” especially when there is already an elected official of statewide prominence with that name should be a questionable vote at best. There do need to be consistent guidelines issued statewide, but there is also a responsibility that voters have to vote there intentions clearly.

      These comments are from a ballot counter who has seen a lot of paper ballots over the years and conferred many times with my counting partner or the town clerk about an individual voters intent. Had tge outcome of the recount been different, my comments woud’ve been the same.

  • Bob Stannard
    • Karl Riemer

      Have you met her? She’s “reluctant” in the Jeanne d’Arc sense of the word. No, Martha was the reluctant candidate, more or less obligated to declare.

    • A phrase coined by a reporter.

  • Barry Kade

    I am totally confused about the supposed 5 being typed as 58.
    The contested tally at the Secretary of State’s office shows 28-4 in Abbots favor for Westfield. This is the tally with a final vote of 371 to 370.
    Can someone explain where the mistaken “58” is?

  • Nick Olcott

    As has been stated in the comments here many times Annette’s so called campaign was supposed to be a “referendum on industrial wind power in VT” well now that we see that less than 400 votes were cast can we put this issue to bed???

  • Fred Woogmaster

    The actual votes? The counting,and the recounting? Very important. Legitimate challenge to the political control exercised by a small group of people – the two party system? Crucial! Speaking truth to power is never easy. Those of us who are Independent (present day more than 50%) more often than not vote for the lesser of two evils.
    The Progressive Party seems to have succumbed to the adage – if you can’t beat ’em – join ’em. Annette Smith seems to be saying ‘not so!’ Her presence on the debate podium might shed some new light on the two party system and the obscene amounts of money IT receives. Campaign contributions tell much of the story. Elections are bought; The People are virtually voiceless – frequently. What a shame. Annette Smith says: Let’s change it! I agree.

  • William Boardman

    In Windsor County, where I was a counter, every effort was made to count all Prog ballots, many of which were, indeed, blank. But there’s no assurance we found them all, since they had been bundled in different ways at the town level.
    Probably we were close enough, not that that’s a great comfort….

  • michael gohl

    In future primaries it may make sense to list all candidates on one ballot – we vote on paper in Wolcott – and not screw around with party affiliation, which has its limitations. One ballot with as many columns as necessary to accommodate all parties and/or candidates. Keep it simple Sam.

  • Mike Curtis

    Writting in a candidate is such a waste. Why should I vote for someone who isn’t organized enough to get herself on the ballot?

    It seems fairly clear that Anne would have won if she’d gotten the signatures and submitted her name to get on the ballot. She failed to do this basic thing. How can she possibly be competent enough to actually serve as Governor?