Smith wants recount in Progressive Primary for Governor

The moose is the Progressive mascot animal.

by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle 9-5-2012

Annette Smith wants a recount in the Progressive Primary race for Governor.  Secretary of State Jim Condos has certified the result in the race, so in order to ask for a recount, she must file a petition in Washington County Superior Court.

The margin was a tiny bit larger than 2 percent, which means Ms. Smith is not necessarily entitled to a recount.  A judge would need to decide.

Mr. Condos mentioned that there is a time crunch to consider.  Overseas ballots must be ready to go to people in the military by September 21.

“We’ve got about 11 days,” he said — to create 275-plus General Election ballots, get them proofread and printed.

Results certified by the Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday show Martha Abbott winning the nomination with 371 votes.  Ms. Smith’s write-in votes were tallied at 354.  Officials said a total of 382 write-in votes were cast in the Primary race for Governor.

Mr. Condos said if the gap had been 15 votes or less, the recount would be allowed.  But the gap was 17.

Ms. Smith, who is the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, said Tuesday the instructions on the ballots were incorrect.  Ballot instructions say in order to write in a candidate, the voter must not only write a person’s name, but also color in the oval beside the name.  Ms. Smith said clerks had the same instructions, and that means votes that were clearly intended for her might have been missed in the counting on Primary Election night.

Mr. Condos said it’s not a problem.  Town clerks are clear that the voter’s intention is what matters, whether or not they marked the oval.

But Ms. Smith said that she knows of one voter who thought the count for her town was incorrect, because she had voted for Ms. Smith and knew of six others who had, yet only four votes showed up on the official tally.  Ms. Smith said after that voter called that clerk (whom Ms. Smith did not want to name) the clerk went back and checked and said the voter was correct and there were actually seven votes.

Under Vermont law, Ms. Smith or a voter who has some evidence that his or her vote was not counted can petition the court.  If a recount is called, the ballots would be brought to each county’s court for recounting.

Ms. Smith said Tuesday she is a reluctant candidate for Governor.

“I was not involved in the discussions,” she said, speaking of initial discussions by various groups to put up the name of a protest candidate.

She said her understanding is that a number of people who are extremely frustrated with Governor Peter Shumlin decided to find a protest candidate.  She said they originally considered running someone in the Democratic Primary but decided a small number could make a bigger difference in the Progressive Party.

“I don’t think I was the top choice,” Ms. Smith said, but the group’s top choice declined to have his or her name tossed into the ring.

Ms. Smith definitely shares the group’s frustration, though, saying Governor Shumlin has been in office for two years and refuses to debate the issues of industrial wind with her.

“So now it looks like I have to own the label” (of candidate) she said.  She said she believes that part of what inspired people to get votes out for her was the fact the Progressive Party is not challenging the Governor on many of the issues they care about.

“They’ve abdicated,” she said about the Progressives.  “That’s what inspired people even more.”

“Our strategy is really to get the Democrats to keep their promises,” Ms. Abbott said Tuesday.

She announced Tuesday that although she won the nomination, she is turning it down.

Ms. Abbott is the chairman of the Progressive Party.  She said health care and closing Vermont Yankee are the Progressives’ two key issues, and the Progressives agree with Governor Peter Shumlin on those two points.

“It’s not an endorsement.  We’re just staying out of the race,” she said.

Tuesday she said the party plans to concentrate on other statewide and local races where Progressive candidates are running.

She said the Progressives disagree with Governor Shumlin on a number of issues and will “continue to be a thorn in his side.”

Some of the issues the Progressives disagree with him on, according to a press release, include “tax policy, labor issues, issues of sustainable economic development, agriculture, buying Vermont first, the F-35s, starting a state bank, and private for-profit development of Vermont’s resources for energy production.”

Ms. Abbott added that she wished the race had shaped up earlier and could have been a real race.

“I heard about it two weeks before the election,” she said.  “I think it’s exciting when people get engaged politically, and we could have a race.  We would love to have more people participating in our party.”

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

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