House Minority Report on H.R. 8

House Minority Report on H.R. 8

February 1, 2017           

Minority Report    

RE:  H.R. 8

 

Madame Speaker –

I offer the following minority report regarding House Resolution 8.  The facts need to be stated so it can be understood why the Republican minority party representation on the House Government Operations Committee oppose any affirmative action on this resolution.

Let me state the facts.

Fact: The general election was held on November 8, 2016; and 

Fact: The seated member secured the second highest votes, 1,853, in the Orange-1 house district.

Fact: The petitioner finished third in a two-seat district with 1,845 votes, not enough to secure her re-election. 

Fact: The Secretary of State certified the election results, confirming that the Representative from Williamstown finished first; and the seated member from Chelsea finished second and declared the winners of the Orange-1 district house race.

Fact: The petitioner then filed for a recount.

Fact: The recount was conducted and the results certified on November 28, 2016.  

Fact: The results of the recount confirmed the petitioner’s vote count at 1,845, the exact same number as the General Election.

Fact: The results of the recount changed the seated member from Chelsea’s vote count to 1,852, one less than the general election; and was confirmed by the Vermont Superior Court Judge, Orange Unit.

Fact: The petitioner again asked the court to present evidence relating to the recount, and a hearing pursuant to 17 VSA S/s 2602j(c) was held on December 19, 2016.

Fact: The outcome of the recount and the subsequent hearing held confirmed the number of votes as follows:  

The representative from Williamstown – 2,015;

The seated member from Chelsea – 1,852;

The Petitioner – 1,845;

And the fourth candidate - 1,006; 

The Superior Court Judge, Orange Unit issued a judgment confirming the results and following candidates are declared the winners in the General election for State Representatives for district Orange-1:  the members from Williamstown and Chelsea, respectively.

Fact: On or about December 19, 2016, the petitioner decided to contest the results of the recount and filed a petition with the Secretary of State, who forwarded it to the Attorney General.

Please keep in mind the following:  The General Election was conducted as follows:

Chelsea, Corinth, Orange, Vershire and Washington ballots were counted by hand. Williamstown ballots were counted by tabulator.

The subsequent recount was counted by tabulator. 

Fact: There were 4,406 voters checked off on the checklist on Election Day.

Fact: There were 4,406 ballots in the General Election.

Fact: There were 4,406 ballots in the recount; the exact same number in both counts.

The proponents of this resolution would like you to believe the process may have been flawed.

However, the facts show beyond reasonable doubt, beyond reasonable doubt, that the vote counts remained essentially the same, confirming the accuracy of both the General Election and the recount.

Let me reaffirm the recount numbers: 

                  Representative from Williamstown –      2,015

                  Representative from Chelsea –        1,852

                  Petitioner – 1,845

                  Fourth candidate –    1,006

On the first day of the session, the Representative from Middletown Springs rose for a point of order, requesting the member from Chelsea not be seated or sworn in due to the contested election.   

The Vermont Secretary of State, the Presiding Official, stated that the member from Chelsea was duly elected and was entitled to be sworn in and take his seat in the House of Representatives.

Fact: In 2011, when the house race for Windsor-Orange 1 district (Tunbridge/Royalton) was decided in a recount which determined that the member from Tunbridge was the winner by one vote over the member from Royalton, the House Government Operations Committee reported to the House of Representatives that they confirmed the one vote victory and due to the fact the member from Tunbridge was already sworn in and seated, that they would not recommend “unseating” her.

Now, here we are, six years later having a similar discussion.  But let’s be very clear; the facts as stated cannot be disputed. The Representative from Chelsea is the clear victor in the Orange-1 contested House race and has every right to be a member of this body.

We may hear compelling arguments that certain “defective” ballots should be considered.  However, the facts show that defective ballots have never been considered in any election or recount.  Let me reiterate:  defective ballots have never been considered in any election or recount. 

Vermont statute, Title 17, Subsection 2547 clearly states the definition of a defective ballot and those ballots are not to be considered in the election results… Ever

Fact: Testimony offered by each of the town clerks in the Orange-1 district, confirmed their accurate handling of “early absentee voter ballots” to be deemed defective.  There was no question at the end of those testimonies that would indicate any contrary opinion.

In conclusion, the Republican Minority Party of the House Government Operations Committee states that the facts presented are clear, crystal clear.  The Representative from Chelsea is the clear winner of the Orange-1 contested house district.  The former Representative from Washington has not substantially provided or produced any evidence to compel this body to rule in any other manner.

The burden of proof rests on the petitioner.  It is our conclusion that she has not provided any clear and concise evidence to change the outcome of this election.

It is our duty to do the right thing.  The honest thing. The correct thing. 

To vote in any other manner is a travesty to the democratic process.  It sheds doubt on our Vermont town clerks and election officials, and the process and procedures they follow.  It sheds doubt that every vote matters. It sheds doubt that your vote is your voice…

This should not be a partisan issue. It should be an issue of black and white, right and wrong, clear and concise

The entire state, our constituents are watching and listening.  We should not be questioning the will of the voters. 

They are who we represent and if we cross them, we will not be here in the future to represent them. Keep that in mind.

I urge this body to listen to the facts, the undisputed facts, and rule the representative from Chelsea is the clear winner of the Orange-1 contested house district, by defeating this resolution.

Respectfully submitted,

The Republican Minority Members of the House Government Operations Committee.

Rep. Patti J. Lewis, Berlin/Northfield