On September 2, 2020

After a close primary vote, recount petition is revoked

By Curt Peterson

Jennifer Grant ran against three other candidates for the Democratic nomination for two seats in the House of Representatives in Windsor-1 District, including Hartland, Windsor and West Windsor. Grant lost her bid for the nomination to Elizabeth Burrows by just six votes.

Grant successfully petitioned the Windsor County Superior Court for a ballot recount, which was set to start at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 24. In House races a margin less than 5% of total ballots cast qualifies for a recount request.

“The margin was just one-fifth of one percent of the total,” Grant told the Mountain Times. “If the recount changed four votes in my favor, I would be the second nominee. I felt it was worth double-checking on principle.”

The open seat was Zachariah Ralph’s, who was not running for reelection.

But as she was coordinating final details for the Aug. 24 recount with Windsor County Clerk Pepper Tepperman, Grant suddenly withdrew her recount petition.

The reason? The health and safety of her volunteers, some of whom are seniors, and of the other participants.

Grant’s life focus has been the health field, she said, which is what drives her interest in public service in the first place.

“I’m very much at peace with my decision to withdraw,” she said. “Consideration for the health and safety of the people involved, including my volunteers, is consistent with my values and with protecting Vermonters’ health. I couldn’t ask them to take that risk.”

Grant hopes to run for the House again in 2022.

A recount isn’t rocket science, nor is it simple.

Here’s how it would have worked:

As required, Grant had filed her petition and certification of total ballots and number of ballots favoring each candidate within seven days of the primary. Hearing Judge Robert Gerety granted her request almost immediately. The recount date was set the next business day for a date within five days, as mandated by statute.

The state pays recount expenses – including providing official manila tags, tally sheets, summary sheets, general recounting supplies, and the form for reporting recount results. Each of the four candidates has to submit the names of at least 10 volunteers willing to help. The state pays volunteers the per diem juror rate.

Hartland and Windsor ballots were to be tabulated using electronic voting machines. West Windsor uses traditional paper ballots, according to Tepperman, who would supervise the recount.

The judge has to select at least 12 volunteers, or enough to finish the count in one day, from a pool of 40 — 10 submitted by each of the four candidates.

The recount included votes for all the candidates, and checklists and voting records had to be shuttled to the recount site from three towns.

If just the four candidates show up with their volunteers, and the county clerk oversees the process, 45 people would be together in one room for an undetermined number of hours – during a pandemic this would mean masks, 6-foot distancing, ensuring air ventilation, sanitizing, etc. –  an organizational challenge.

Covid-19 guidelines inspired Tepperman to relocate the recount to Tracey Hall’s gymnasium in Norwich, rather than within a small room in the Windsor County courthouse.

Additionally, the process would require testing one electronic tabulator used in the recount, comparing the total ballots submitted by towns to their voter checklists, volunteers receiving lots of 50 ballots at a time to count and record, and a judicial review hearing when the results are submitted to the court.

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