BRATTLEBORO >> A second recount was scheduled for Thursday after Select Board candidate Avery Schwenk made his case to the Board of Civil Authority.
His concerns, involving the potential for human error when counting Australian ballots, came after the March 16 recount called for by Schwenk's opponent Dick DeGray, who lost by just one vote during the elections held March 1. Schwenk then lost in the recount by eight votes, 1,505-1,497.
"My understanding is there were three persons in each team and unfortunately the one that was left out from that team was the double-check person for the ballots," Schwenk said during a BCA hearing Wednesday, adding that a second count of the different stacks of ballots was not conducted. "I don't believe that this was in any way meant to influence the results of the recount. I just want to make sure that when we make a number, we're going to get a solid number."
According to Vermont's statute on recounts, candidates and their attorneys should be given the opportunity to present evidence to the BCA involving the conduct of the recount.
"If the board determines that any violations of recount procedures have occurred and that they may have affected the outcome of the recount, a new recount shall be ordered," the statute stated. "After such hearings or arguments as may be indicated under the circumstances, the board, within five working days, shall issue a judgment, which shall supersede any certificate of election previously issued and shall return to the town clerk questionable ballots which had been forwarded to the board."
Town Clerk Annette Cappy said statutes involving recounts changed within the last couple years, going from one paragraph to six pages. She called them "convoluted" with Schwenk nodding in agreement, prompting laughs from the BCA and attendees of the hearing.
Advice from the Secretary of State's Office was described by Cappy as "well-intentioned but incorrect." She said she knew the advice did not match the new statutes.
"But I was also told that the recent changes in the statute for recounts was addressing state recounts, not local recounts," said Cappy, taking "full responsibility" for the procedure going the way it did and apologizing. "I think it was a difficult process. There were a lot of ballots. I think the recount will solidify things as Mr. Schwenk said. I also think that this time by following the statute, instead of just one count, you actually will end up with four tallies per stack of 50 ballots. I think that will be pretty indisputable."
Cappy hopes to have five teams of four people counting the ballots. And until all four tallies match, she said, "You keep doing it over and over and over."
Ballots will begin to be counted at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Select Board Meeting Room at the Municipal Center. Members of the BCA are expecting a long day. The first recount took about four hours to complete. The next one could take up to eight hours.
Cappy previously told the Reformer this week would be good for a recount given Representative Town Meeting is coming up on Saturday and Select Board members are scheduled to take their oaths on Monday.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.