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.
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.