Chester recount: Numbers change, result remains Chase margin expands slightly; Blair says he'll run in 2022

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Town Clerk Deb Aldrich, speaks with Chase and Blair who witnessed the recount. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Today’s hand recount of ballots for the three-year term on the Chester Select Board that were cast last Tuesday confirmed the result and slightly widened the small margin of victory for incumbent member Heather Chase.

Last Tuesday night, the tally stood at 251 votes for Chase and 245 for Scott Blair. On Wednesday, Blair asked for a  hand recount of the machine read ballots. According to Vermont statute a candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is 5 percent or less of the total number of votes cast in the race divided by the number of seats available. In this case, there were 525 votes cast for one seat. Five percent of that would be 26 votes. Town Clerk Deborah Aldrich then scheduled the recount for Monday  March 8.

Aldrich breaks the seal on the bag containing the ballots

At 10 a.m. this morning members of the  Board of Civil Authority (which is made up of the select board, justices of the peace and the town clerk) gathered on the second floor of Town Hall. Chase,  who is both a select board member and justice of the peace, did not participate in the count.

Aldrich explained that those counting  would be paired up and each pair would go through a stack of ballots. One person would read out the vote in the specific race, while while the other would record that on a tally sheet. In the end, a number of ballots that the scanning machine had counted as overvotes were examined and the totals shifted to 256 for Chase and 243 for Blair. Following the recount, Aldrich told Blair that he also could appeal the recount in court if he wished.

Board of Civil Authority members listen as Aldrich explains the use of the tally sheet

“It was nice to have an official recount of the ballots and I totally accept the results,” Blair told The Telegraph shortly after the recount. “It’s important to see that the vote count can be different and that every vote does make a difference. I’ll be back next year.”

Winner Heather Chase said she was happy that the margin increased. “Scott was within his rights to ask for the recount and I hope that he and the voters feel better as a result,” said Chase, noting that “democracy can be messy and now we can move forward.”

Leigh Dakin and Robert Nied work on their piece of the recount

This recount is apparently one for the history books.

“I don’t remember doing a recount in the 38 years I’ve been working here,” said Aldrich. “We used to count all the ballots by hand and it took hours and hours.” The town began using optical scanning machines in the 1990s.



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