Thursday, December 7
BENNINGTON — After three days of tallying votes in the statewide recount of the auditor's race, local counters say they are slowly but steadily making progress.

Incumbent Republican Randy Brock narrowly edged Democrat Thomas Salmon , son of former Vermont Gov. Thomas Salmon, by just 137 votes following the November election. A recount was mandatory because of the slim margin.

Counting is taking place is each of Vermont's 14 counties. In Bennington County, the recount is happening in the Bennington Superior Courthouse under the direction of Betty Loftus, the county clerk.

At the end of counting on Wednesday, Loftus said the towns of Arlington, Bennington, Dorset, Landgrove, Peru and Rupert had been counted so far. Only the results of Bennington's 2-1 district have been tallied, however, with Salmon picking up 4 votes.

The counting process is a tedious task, says Bennington County Republican Committee Chairman Daniel Riley, who has served as a counter and observer. According to Riley, the process of recounting ballots is laid out by the Vermont state statutes, and has been strictly followed by Loftus and Deputy Clerk Marya Bossong.

First, a sealed bag is opened by a court officer and sorted into stacks of 50 piles while observers look on. The stacks of 50 are then distributed to tables consisting of four people of different political affiliations to be counted and to ensure that each stack is in fact 50 ballots. The votes are then tallied twice, and all four counters at the table must sign off on the results.

"I think the system is great. It's definitely secure," said Riley.

Counters who likely support Salmon agreed that the system, although time consuming, was solid.

"The process is really fail-safe," said Barbara MacIntyre, who has organized the Democratic counters.

One issue concerning missing ballots was addressed today by the candidates in Washington County Superior Court. Because of a contested Vermont House race in Windham county, which also contains several towns that are in Bennington County, some ballots appear to have been mixed up.

Loftus, who participated in the hearing via telephone, said 64 ballots were found in a Wardsboro ballot bag that should not have been there. Furthermore, 25 ballots that should have been in the bag were missing.

Loftus said the parties involved, the candidates, the judge and the two county clerks, believe the ballots were placed in the wrong bags. When the Readsboro, Searsburg and Sandgate bags are opened, the issue should be resolved, she said.

"We expect that I'm going to find that we are missing 64 ballots and have 25 that I shouldn't," said Loftus.

Riley said he didn't think anything suspicious had occurred.

"I wouldn't call it voting impropriety. It was just due to the House recount," he said.

While some might find the lengthy process of a recount to be excruciating, Salmon said he is enjoying the excitement of the recount as much as he enjoyed the campaign.

"It's an exciting time, it really is, no matter what the outcome," he said. "I'm very relaxed. I'm not on pins and needles."

Salmon said he couldn't make any predictions on whether a recount would push his vote tally past Brock, but he said he was glad to know that each vote would be accounted for.

"It's too early to tell, but I like the fact that the result of the matter is that every vote should be counted, and they will," he said. "This is about the intention of the people. ... Let the peoples' wish prevail."

Brock could not be reached for comment.