House to conduct Orange recount Wednesday

MONTPELIER — A panel of House members will conduct a recount in the Orange-1 House district on Wednesday after approving the rules and procedures governing the recount last week.

Republican Rep. Bob Frenier, of Chelsea, defeated incumbent Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, P-Washington, in November’s general election by eight votes. A recount conducted after Election Day narrowed Frenier’s victory to seven votes, but his win was certified and he was sworn in last month as the duly elected representative of the district.

But Davis petitioned the House to review the election. After a fivehour debate earlier this month, the House passed a resolution calling for a legislative recount with strenuous objections from Republicans. On Thursday, the House approved another resolution that details the rules and procedures for the legislative recount. The resolution was recommended by the House Government Operations Committee unanimously, including four Republicans.

Rep. Robert Frenier

Rep. Robert Frenier

The Vermont Constitution allows the Legislature to “judge” the qualifications of its own members, and even conduct a recount, but does not lay out specific rules for such an action.

Katherine Levasseur, aide to Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, said the recount will take place on Wednesday and could last into Thursday.

Per the resolution outlining policies and procedures for the recount, ballots from the Orange-1 House contest have been subpoenaed and will be transported to the State House by a sheriff on Tuesday. The ballots will be stored in a closet within Room 11 of the State House and Sergeant-at-Arms Janet Miller will be required to change the locks to the room until the recount begins.

The resolution calls for the city of Montpelier to loan two vote tabulator machines for the legislative recount. Two memory cards will be used and will be received directly from LHS Associates, an election services company. The chief of the Capitol Police is directed to lock the memory cards in a locked drawer in his office until the recount takes place.

The press and the public will be allowed in Room 11 while the recount takes place but not in the area where counting is taking place. The resolution calls for the recount area to be sectioned off by a stanchion.

The rules call for a 23-member panel of House members to conduct the legislative recount. The panel will include 11 Republicans, six Democrats and five Progressives. The chairwoman of the House Government Operations Committee, Rep. Maida Townsend, D-South Burlington, is the head of the panel and will be assisted by leaders of the Republican and Progressive caucuses.

Any contested ballots will be reviewed by a team of lawmakers. Townsend and the Republican and Progressive leaders will have the final word on contested ballots with a majority ruling.

Frenier said he is confident the legislative recount will be done fairly.

“I think with these people it will be done fairly. I think with other people it’s a recipe for theft of an election,” he said. “I’m very confident that these good people will do the job right and they’ll match the other good people who did the job right. Nobody’s going to steal this thing.”

Frenier said his confidence in retaining his House seat is based on sitting through the previous recount and the House Government Operations Committee hearings in recent weeks.

Rep. Donald Turner, the House minority leader, said he still believes “there was really no justification to do a recount.”

“It seems like a waste of effort and resources to do this,” he said.

Turner said he does not believe majority Democrats will try to steal the election, but he has lingering concerns about the process.

“We still have concern thatthisisultimately going to be decided by a partisan ballot if there are any questionable ballots. If there are questions it’s going to be a (Progressive), a (Democrat) and myself,” he said. “When you know that somebody won by a certain number of ballots and you’re going to look at the ballots before they’re counted, you only have to discredit seven of them.”

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