Second recount comes out in Ainsworth’s favor by single vote

Officials conduct a recount in the legislative race between Rep. Sarah Buxton, D-Tunbridge, and David Ainsworth, of Royalton, at the Windsor County clerk’s office in Woodstock on Wednesday. From front left: Pat McDonald, Dan Kinney, Neal Fox and Conor Kennedy. Royalton Town Clerk Karmen Bascom, back left, and Windsor County Clerk Pepper Tepperman supervise. Photo by James M. Patterson/Valley News
(This story is by John P. Gregg, of the Valley News, in which it first appeared online Dec. 14, 2016.)

Windsor County election officials spent another long day in Woodstock on Wednesday, laboriously assessing and recounting ballots in the race for the Vermont House district representing Royalton and Tunbridge.

A little after 7 p.m., Royalton Republican David Ainsworth learned he has apparently defeated state Rep. Sarah Buxton, D-Tunbridge, by one vote. One ballot where voter intent was in question, but which had previously been judged to be in Ainsworth’s favor, was not included in the count and set aside for Judge Robert Gerety to consider, if it comes to that.

“It’s 1,004 to 1,003, with the one questionable ballot the judge still has to decide on, or I’m not sure what he’ll do,” Ainsworth said in a phone interview. “I’m relieved it’s over.”

Ainsworth said Buxton, his four-time rival, congratulated him after the tally was announced and the two hugged, but he was uncertain whether she might file an appeal on the recount.

Messages left for Buxton were not immediately returned. Her attorney, Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, confirmed Ainsworth’s assessment of the tally.

Seven Days reported that Buxton said Wednesday evening she was satisfied the recount was thorough but was disappointed not to be going back to the Legislature.

On Election Day, Buxton had a three-vote lead over Ainsworth, but a recount on Nov. 21 found the two tied, 1,000 to 1,000.

Ainsworth, a vegetable and dairy farmer who served on the House Agriculture Committee, lost his seat by one vote to Buxton in 2010. He said he hopes to regain his seat on the House Agriculture Committee, especially with the burdens Act 64, a new law intended to clean up Vermont waterways, is now placing on farmers.

“With this Act 64 being enacted and required agricultural practices maybe needing to be tuned up, I think it would be good to have an active farmer on the Ag Committee,” he said.

Buxton served on the House Education Committee and voted in support of the Act 46 school consolidation law that has put pressure on small school districts in the White River Valley to consider merging.

Meanwhile, a hearing is scheduled in Vermont Superior Court in Chelsea on Friday morning in the race for an Orange-1 House seat representing the towns of Chelsea, Vershire, Corinth, Washington, Williamstown and Orange. A machine recount last month showed Chelsea Republican Bob Frenier edging out state Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, P-Washington, by six votes. She has asked a judge to order a hand tally, which may not be allowed under a law enacted in 2014.

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  • Todd Morris

    So if I got this right the votes were counted 3 times and each time there was a different result. Why is it so difficult to tally 2000 votes? I understand that some ballots may be marked in a way that it may be unclear for whom the vote was intended. If there is any question at all, regardless of how slight, the ballot must be tossed. We can’t have poll workers trying to discern the voters intention. We all have a right to vote but must accept some modicum of responsibility in exercising that right. If some can’t clearly mark their ballot like the vast majority are able to then I am fine with that vote being discarded.

    • Tom Grout

      Well I counted votes several times over the years and find strange X’s marked outside of the box and wouldn’t you know it about half way between the two boxes.
      Quite frankly some of this voting is perfrmed by design other times its probably the result of someone forgetting their reading glasses.
      Every voting sight should have a few pairs of glasses situated in the open for those in need to use.

    • Peter Liston

      Votes are counted by the town’s Board of Civil Authority. Anyone can show up and watch, as long as they are respectful and not getting in the way. I encourage every Vermonter to witness the process at least once. It’ll help clear up your questions here.

    • robert bristow-johnson

      There is an issue that I warned two different Secretaries of State and their Directors of Elections. I warned them in writing via email and received some acknowledgment from the office under both secretaries. But it was evidently not heeded, because *since* this warning there was a state law passed in 2015 that did *not* acknowledge this problem.

      It is true, that with properly-marked ballots, a machine recount will likely make fewer mistakes than a human hand (or eye) recount. So I understand part of the reasons why the law was enacted. Sometimes people miscall a mark or miscount.

      But in 2010 (Shumlin-Racine primary recount), we were instructed to feed *all* ballots into the machine directly out of the ballot bag. That was stupid. Later, *after* the machine count, we were instructed to separate the questionably-marked ballots from the well-marked ballots. That’s closing the barn door *after* the cows get out. We should separate the poorly-marked ballots first.

  • Jean Kiewel

    What position were they running for Senate or House?