To the editor: Orange-1 recount was conducted properly

An Open Letter to the Vermont House of Representatives

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 Nov. 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. (Editor’s note: See related letter, here.)

County Clerk Lisa Eastman 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, of 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.

Rep. 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 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.  Rep. 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 who conducted the recount had been invited to testify.


Tracy Borst
Thetford Town Clerk

Georgette Wolf-Ludwig
Fairlee Town Clerk

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