Wygmans Re-elected State’s Attorney After Two-Day Recount

By CAROLINE KAPP

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN /THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS
Volunteers recounting ballots for the state’s attorney race.

“Count well,” Dennis Wygmans’ attorney Willem Jeweet jokingly called over his shoulder, a gesture illustrative of the cordial, friendly atmosphere that characterized the vote recount of the Addison County state’s attorney race.

The recount ended Tuesday evening after two days of counting. Wygmans, the incumbent, maintained his victory over Bevere and widened his winning margin to 21 votes.  

In the original count, Wygmans had beaten challenger Peter Bevere by a mere nine votes. 

“No one expects to win or lose by such a close margin,” Wygmans said in an interview with The Campus on Nov. 6,  Election Night. 

On Monday morning, a team of volunteers started the process of recounting ballots in Court Room 2 of the Addison County District Court House, only a few doors down from the very office the candidates were vying to occupy.

I wanted to make the time, just to come in and ensure that people are entirely confident in the voting process in Vermont.”

— ADDISON COUNTRY STATE SENATOR CHRISTOPHER BRAY

The recount committee is composed of volunteers appointed by each of the candidates, some of whom  are paid $30 a day while others  are compensated by their employers. 

The process goes town by town, moving through the 17,500 or so ballots that were cast in Addison County. Volunteers sit in pairs at tables of four. Each pair consists of one volunteer appointed by Wygmans and one appointed by Bevere. Ballots are sorted into piles of 50 and counted out by the pairs, who then review each ballot. Ballots in which the ovals are completely filled in are scanned through a tabulator to be counted.

 Ballots in which the ovals are overfilled, underfilled or marked in other ways are set aside to be hand counted.  Pairs are obligated to determine the intent of the voter and agree on which candidate they voted for. If the pair cannot agree, the ballot is deemed “questionable” and submitted to a judge who decides the voter’s intent.

Will Senning, the director of elections in the office of Vermont’s Secretary of State, was in the room to oversee the process. He supervises recounts across the state every election cycle. 

“The statute is really specific in this instance,” he told The Campus. This means that every recount runs in a similar manner, but, he added, “each one has its own character.”

 The Addison County recount felt like a community gathering. Committee members chatted with their neighbors, people caught up with friends and many headed out in groups to the Co-op during their lunch break.

Senning said that usually only a small handful of ballots are “questionable” and sent to a judge. 

“If the margin coming out of here is less than the number of questionable ballots, the judge’s decision will determine the actual outcome,” Senning said.

During this recount, ten ballots were deemed questionable, and thus will not change the outcome of the race.

Addison County State Senator Christopher Bray served as a member of the recount committee. Bray won his own election this past midterm and volunteered to help with the recount process. 

“I had the time, and I wanted to make the time, just to come in and ensure that people are entirely confident in the voting process in Vermont,” Bray said. “I think we do a great job in Vermont.”

Bray explained that the goal of the committee was to move as efficiently as possible — ballot counting, after all, is a labor- and time-intensive process. “The goal is not to have anyone sitting still,” he said.

Election Day is all about politics, Bray explained, but the recount is not. “The politics end when the votes get count,” he said.

Sheila Conroy, another member of the recount committee, has a lot of experience counting ballots. As a Justice of the Peace in Sailsbury, she counts votes every election night. Salisbury, like many of the smaller towns in Addison County, hand counts votes instead of using a tabulator.

Conry was appointed by Bevere. “I can see where mistakes could be made. Counting gets fatiguing after a while,” Conroy said, remembering that they were up past one in the morning on election night. “People are weary at that hour.”

Senning was pleased with the process of the recount. “It’s nice to see how many people are actually willing to come out and help,” he said.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Leave a Comment




Navigate Left
Navigate Right
Middlebury College's only student-run newspaper.
Wygmans Re-elected State’s Attorney After Two-Day Recount