A recount was triggered when the results of November's election showed incumbent Republican Randy Brock with a slim margin over Salmon. The two candidates were separated by just 137 votes with well over 200,000 ballots cast throughout the state.
Counties finished with the recount have reported enough votes gained by Salmon to push him past Brock. In the nine counties whose results were available, Salmon had gained 302 votes and Brock had gained 37, for a net gain of 265 for Salmon.
Many votes uncounted
The results of the recount will not be certified until they are signed by Judge Mary M. Teachout in Washington County Superior Court, however, and Vermont's three most populous counties, Chittenden, Rutland and Windsor counties, were still counting ballots at the close of business Monday.
According to state law, the recount is administered by the Superior Court in Washington County, home of the state's capital, Montpelier, rather than the Secretary of State who normally oversees elections.
Salmon said Monday that he has already been through the emotions of defeat with his family and campaign volunteers so he was excited by the preliminary numbers reported.
"It's November 7 all over again. All of the sudden you're up by 200 or down by 200. You can't count on anything; you have to keep going until the whistle blows. ... Our campaign has already processed a statewide loss, so for me, it's an exciting ride," he said.
Brock said he was aware of the early numbers but still waiting for the official results.
"I've seen that he's picked up some votes and I see that I've picked up some votes in some cases. ... We're waiting for the recount to be finished and we'll see what they say," said Brock.
The recount began after a slim lead for Brock on the day after the election was trimmed even further when the official results were released. On Nov. 8, the day after the election, the difference between the candidates was more than 800 votes. When the certified results were released several days later by Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, that number shrunk to 137.
Salmon said he called Brock to ask for his support if he chose to seek a recount, but according to Salmon, Brock thought a recount would be expensive and unlikely to reverse the results. Salmon said he understood Brock's concerns over a recount, but thought the recount was necessary.
In the event he is determined to be the winner, Salmon said Brock's professionalism would be beneficial.
"It's unfortunate for everybody. It's unfortunate for Randy to have uncertainty and unfortunate for me since it could be a very short window. If lightning strikes, I think Randy will be very helpful," said Salmon. "I'm just looking forward to some clarity as everyone else is."
The recount in Bennington County concluded Monday after it began a week before, according to County Clerk Betty Loftus. Salmon was able to gain a net of 26 votes in the county, she said.
Salmon's largest single gain in the county came in Winhall, where he gained 14 votes. There were 365 votes cast in Winhall.
Loftus said the greatest number of votes lost and gained by the candidates seemed to be coming from hand counted ballots as opposed to ballots tallied by machines.
"From what I understand, statewide, it's the hand counted ballots," she said at the Bennington Superior Court Monday where the recount had taken place.
Markowitz said a preliminary look at the recounts has shown the bulk of changes have come in towns that use paper ballots, which have to be counted by hand.
In the auditor's race, it appears in many cases that votes that should have been transferred from tally sheets to Salmon's total actually went to Liberty Union candidate Jerry Levy, whose name was just above Salmon's on the ballot.
"What we seem to be seeing is that in towns that hand count their votes, particularly the larger towns that are hand-counting votes, there are some number of Salmon votes that were incorrectly marked in the Levy column," Markowitz said.
Kiley Dixon, the county clerk of Addison County, released numbers that showed Brock gaining five votes, but the results also showed Salmon gaining 51 votes for a net gain of 46 votes in the county.
Caledonia County Clerk Kathleen Pearl said Salmon picked up 28 votes while Brock gained only one, for a net gain of 27 votes.
Salmon saw a modest gain in Essex County, where numbers released by County Clerk Angelina Desilets show a four vote gain for the Democrat.
Vermont's largest county, Chittenden, has finished recounting about 57 percent of the 62,500 ballots cast, according to County Clerk Diane A. Lavallee. She said the recount will probably go into next week.
"We did a good amount today, 7,000. Even if we did 7,000 a day, we will probably go into next week," she said. "We've got a quarter of the ballots (statewide)," said Lavallee.
The AP contributed to this story.
E-mail Neal Goswami at firstname.lastname@example.org