Recount leads to tie in Windsor-Orange House race

MONTPELIER — A recount of the Windsor-Orange 1 House district between incumbent Democratic Rep. Sarah Buxton and Republican challenger David Ainsworth ended in a tie on Monday, according to Buxton.

Buxton, of Tunbridge, said a recount Monday at the Windsor County Courthouse in Woodstock eliminated her narrow 1,003 to 1,000 margin over Ainsworth and resulted in a tie — 1,000 to 1,000. But Buxton said it is “questionable” whether that will stand as the final result.

Rep. Sarah Buxton

Rep. Sarah Buxton

In the original count of the two-town district there were eight write-in votes, two spoiled ballots and 51 blank ballots, according to Buxton. After the recount, there were nine write-in votes, three spoiled ballots and 56 blank ballots.

“Somehow between the election night and the recount there are five more blank ballots, which seems kind of strange,” Buxton said.

The election-night counting in Tunbridge took place by hand, Buxton said, while the recount was done entirely by machine tabulator. Two ballots were set aside during the recount because it was unclear of the voter’s intent.

Buxton said she is consulting with a lawyer about election law and how to resolve the outcome of the recount.

“There isn’t a lot of direction. Much of this is up to the discretion of the court. I would expect that there’s going to be more process. I think the judge is going to look at the numbers and he’s going to have to review those ballots that were set aside,” she said. “I’m disappointed that there’s continuing uncertainty. I think that there are a couple things that are concerning.”

Ainsworth, who requested the recount after the narrow result on Nov. 8, said he was working Monday and learned of the recount result late Monday afternoon.

“I’m just trying to get squared away what’s going on,” he said. “I don’t know the exact numbers.”

Ainsworth said he, too, understands that the race may be decided by the two ballots that were set aside.

“There’s apparently two ballots that are in question and have been taken to the judge,” he said. “The circle was not filled in or was partially filled in and there’s some question as to whether the machine counted them or not.”

Ainsworth said he believes the intent of the voters who cast the two ballots set aside was to vote for him.

“If (the judge’s) decision is that they were votes for me, then possibly I won by two. If for some reason they found that the machine did count them, then I guess it’s a dead heat,” Ainsworth said. “If there is another election, then, so be it. We’ll try to be ready for that.”

With the recount leading to more uncertainty, Buxton said there could be yet another recount.

“I’m guessing if there was anther recount there would be good reason for it to be by hand,” she said. “If more blank ballots developed today and my count went down by three and his stayed the same, I wonder if some of those blank ballots were votes for me that would have been identified by a hand count.”

Buxton and Ainsworth have a long electoral history. Buxton defeated Ainsworth, who was the incumbent at the time, by one vote in 2010. She went on to beat him again in 2012 and 2014 by larger margins to maintain the seat.

The Windsor-Orange 1 district includes the town of Tunbridge in Orange County and the town of Royalton in Windsor County.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the number of blank ballots Rep. Sarah Buxton reported to the Vermont Press Bureau. The figures were incorrectly reversed in the original version.

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