Memo from Thetford and Fairlee Town Clerks Regarding H.R. 8

To: Vermont House of Representatives

Cc: Governor Phil Scott, Jim Condos; Secretary of State

From: Tracy Borst; Town Clerk of Thetford, Georgette Wolf-Ludwig; Town Clerk of Fairlee

Date: February 6, 2017

RE: H.R. 8; House resolution relating to conducting a recount in the election for the House of Representatives for the Orange–1 District


As you may know, we were Election Officials for the District Orange 1 recount that took place on November 21, 2016 at the Orange County Court House.  We are deeply concerned that the officials that conducted the recount for District Orange 1 were not invited to testify in the House Government Operations committee.

Lisa Eastman, County Clerk, organized the recount; she called us to assist with this recount as election officials. We are both trained, experienced tabulator officials, and neither one of us are from the Orange 1 district. The others present were Bill Huff; Chair of the Board of Civil Authority in Thetford, in addition to election assistants from each of the Orange 1 district towns.  Mike Carlson; LHS Associates, was present to assist with any tabulator questions. LHS services the tabulators and programs the memory cards that are used in the tabulator.

Representative Maida Townsend, Chair of House Government Operations Committee was quoted in VT Digger as saying:

“We know if the visual inspection is not paired with the tabulator, it is possible that votes may have been missed,” she said. “We just want to be very, very careful.”

This is what actually happened at the recount:

  • -- The voted ballots were removed from ballot bags, placed into piles of 50.  They were placed top down (back side of the ballot viewed) and then turned over (front side up) and fed into the tabulator one at a time – this allowed for visual inspected by the election officials, the tabulator official and the election assistants.  
  • -- The two of us (Town Clerks) took turns feeding the ballots into the tabulator machine. There was not forcing of ballots into the machine.
  • -- If a ballot was unreadable by the tabulator, as indicated on the readout, it was set aside for hand counting.  As each ballot was inserted into the tabulator, the ballot number advanced and was easily read on the readout as a counted ballot.
  • -- After all ballots for the town had been fed into the tabulator, the ballots were removed from the tabulator ballot box and  were distributed to teams that were balanced (Dems and Republicans) to be visually inspected for any mark that could represent voter intent that the machine couldn’t possibly pick up, i.e. A name circled but no oval colored in.  This was the second visual screening of all ballots.
  • -- Three ballots were pulled by the balanced counting team(s) to be determined by the judge.
  • -- The results of votes counted, by tabulator printout, at the recount was compared to the results of the Town’s Official Return of Votes (OVRs) from the town count; with the exception of the one additional vote from one town’s ballots, they all balanced. 

The ballots were viewed first, as they went into the tabulator, then either viewed a second time for voter intent, or counted (viewed) a second and third time if they were in the hand count pile. Visual inspection is certainly part of our procedures.

In my opinion, the recount team did their due diligence, followed procedures, and confirmed the results.  Representative Townsend is mistaken if she believes the ballots were not visually inspected in the recount process.  This all could have been clarified if the officials that conducted the recount had been invited to testify.



Tracy Borst, Thetford Town Clerk

Georgette Wolf-Ludwig, Fairlee Town Clerk

Looney Friday: February 3, 2017

We wish this was all folks, but sadly there has been enough looney legislation proposed that we've launched a weekly update. We'll be casting a bright light on the dark legislation Vermont Democrats and Progressives propose.

10 cent tax on plastic bags - H.88 (Read the bill here)

As if a trip to the grocery store wasn't expensive enough for so many families across Vermont, now six Democrats and Progressives have teamed up in an effort to add a 10 cent tax on any plastic bag you use. That's right, the following Representatives want to make your shopping trip even MORE EXPENSIVE.

  • Michael Yantachka of Charlotte
  • Curt McCormack of Burlington
  • Mary Sullivan of Burlington
  • Annemarie Christensen of Perkinsville
  • Betsy Dunn of Essex
  • John Gannon of Wilmington

Banning Plastic Bags - H.105 (Read the bill here)

Three out-of-touch Representatives have proposed a bill that will ban the use of plastic bags by retail stores. If passed, you will no longer have the option of "paper or plastic." Instead, you'll be forced to purchase your own reusable bags or use paper. The following Representatives have signed on to this legislation:

  • Michael Mrowicki of Putney
  • Trevor Squirrell of Underhill
  • George Till of Jericho

Registration of Bicycles - H.46 (Read the bill here)

Representative Cindy Weed -- the same Representative who urged the Vermont House of Representatives to overturn a settled election -- is now proposing legislation that requires anyone over the age of 16 to register their bicycle and pay a registration fee. Isn't it ironic we urge our youth to remain active and we encourage people to use bicycles to cut down on carbon emissions-- but now we want them to pay for it?  You can thank Cindy Weed for trying to make Vermont more unaffordable.

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 

Governor Phil Scott's 2017 Budget Address

Mr. President, Members of the General Assembly, fellow Vermonters:

Nineteen days ago, I stood in this very spot to lay out my vision for Vermont. One that helps us harness the power of our values, natural beauty and quality of life, to propel a strong, dynamic economy. And one that believes we can achieve great things through the strength and resourcefulness of our people, and our history of unity and respect for each other.

Over the weekend, this was demonstrated yet again, as thousands of Vermonters peacefully marched into Montpelier to show solidarity in our resolve against bias, discrimination and intolerance.

Read more