Disagreement during recount gets party leader escorted out

A recount for an Orange County House seat became so heated Monday afternoon that a top official with the Vermont Republican Party was removed from the Chelsea courthouse where ballots were being examined.

Monday was the second and final day of the recount in the Orange-1 race, where Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, a Progressive, appeared to still trail Republican Bob Frenier. The initial count showed Frenier with an eight-vote edge.

A team of volunteers reviewed 6,700 ballots, which resulted in Frenier’s lead shrinking to six votes. Three ballots were in dispute, but an entry order Tuesday from Superior Court Judge Timothy Tomasi declared no need to further analyze them, because even if all three went to Davis, Frenier would still be the leader.

Jeffrey Bartley
Jeffrey Bartley, executive director of the Vermont Republican Party.
While the recount was mostly a civil affair, Jeffrey Bartley, the executive director of the Vermont GOP, was asked to leave the courthouse Monday after he took issue with how the clerk was overseeing the process, according to people who were there.

Bartley did not return phone and email requests for comment Tuesday, but he told WPTZ on Monday that the Orange County recount process was “very frustrating.”

“We’ve done three recounts (this year) and every one of them has been done differently,” Bartley told WPTZ. “A lot of leeway is given to the county clerks.”

Questions about the process have come up in other recounts this year.

According to Davis, Bartley claimed Monday that the clerk was improperly interacting with a volunteer ballot counter.

Davis said Bartley “yelled out” that the clerk was bullying the volunteer.

The clerk denied doing so and said it was simply instructions, Davis recalled.

According to Davis, Bartley then said, “I don’t care. You are telling her what to do with that ballot.”

The clerk then asked Bartley to leave the chamber, but he refused. According to Davis, Bartley said he wasn’t leaving without a court order. The clerk eventually called a security guard, who escorted Bartley out of the building.

Orange County Clerk Lisa Eastman could not be reached for comment.

Republican Frenier confirmed that Bartley had been escorted out of the building and described it as “a little personality conflict.”

“There was some confusion about what was allowed and not allowed, and the county clerk exercised her prerogative to close off the conversation that way,” Frenier said. “There were two days of re-counting and everybody got along great, but then at the end there was five minutes or less of conflict.”

While Frenier leads in votes, Davis said Tuesday that she hadn’t conceded the race and was waiting for an official report on the recount to be released by the Orange County clerk.

“To tell you the truth, things were so hectic and confusing at the last minute,” Davis said. “I don’t even know what takes place next.”

In his Tuesday order, the judge wrote that the official tally gives Frenier a lead of six votes over Davis — 1,850 to 1,844.

Unless Davis files a dispute by Dec. 7 alleging that the recount was unfairly conducted, Frenier will remain the authorized winner.

On Tuesday afternoon, Frenier assumed he was heading to the Statehouse for the next legislative session.

“I’m on my way to Montpelier to buy some ties so I don’t disgrace my constituents with my 35-year-old ties,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

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Jasper Craven

About Jasper

Jasper Craven is VTDigger’s political reporter. A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. He double-majored in print journalism and political science at Boston University, and worked in the Boston Globe’s Metro and Investigative units. While at the Globe he collaborated on Shadow Campus, a three-part investigative series focused on greed and mismanagement in Boston’s off-campus student housing market. The series was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.
He also spent two years at MuckRock, a news sited dedicated to investigation and analysis of government documents. 

Craven covered Vermont’s U.S. Congressional delegation for the Times Argus in the summer of 2014, and worked as a Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune before joining the staff of VTDigger.

Email: [email protected]

Follow Jasper on Twitter @Jasper_Craven

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  • Stephen Trahan

    There was no “scuffle.” Watch your headline teasers, please.

  • Jamie Carter

    Seems as though there should be some type of standard protocol for conducting a recount… fail by the Sec. of States Office.

  • Thomas Powell

    Sounds like the Vt. GOP is taking its lead from DJTrump: Never accept the voting outcome, even when you’re winning. Nice job.

    • Wayne Ellis

      Or Jill Stein, even when you are only obtain 1% of the vote.

  • Stan Hopson

    Jeff Bartley needs to resign his position, he clearly isn’t capable of conducting himself in a manner appropriate. No VTGOP donations forthcoming from us.

  • Alex MacDonald

    So glad to hear Rep. Frenier is getting new ties for the upcoming session. Very important, and on the minds of his constituents.