Judge will speed up Vt. primary recount

Friday September 3, 2010

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- A Vermont judge reversed course Friday and agreed with two candidates who asked to speed the recount of the Democratic gubernatorial primary ballots, saying the process would continue through next week’s Jewish holiday.

With a Sept. 20 federal deadline looming to get general election ballots printed in time to send them to overseas voters, Washington Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford also said he may allow the recount, set to begin Wednesday, to continue into Saturday if it appears to be going slowly.

State Sen. Doug Racine asked for the recount after initial counting showed him finishing the Aug. 24 primary 197 votes behind Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin. They and three other candidates were vying for the chance to face Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie in the November general election. Gov. Jim Douglas is stepping down after eight years in office.

Both candidates said they were hoping to get the recount done and the fall campaign of the eventual winner under way as quickly as possible.

"The potential for this to drag on is not in anybody’s best interests," Racine said.

Shumlin said in an interview after the court session that his fundraising had been slowed by the uncertain outcome.

Sitting with three of the five candidates at a table below his bench at an extraordinary status conference, Crawford, who appeared without judicial robes, first said he wanted to take a day off from counting on Thursday for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

He changed course after both Racine and Shumlin spoke of the need to speed up the process and the close third-place finisher, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, said "as the practicing Jew at the table ... I’m quite comfortable with the counting on Rosh Hashanah."

The parties agreed that the recount would begin Wednesday. How long it will take is uncertain. A recount in the state auditor’s race in 2006 took until Dec. 21, more than six weeks after Election Day, but officials involved this time pointed to reasons it should go faster.

First, the 2006 recount involved checking all ballots statewide. This time the recount will require checking votes of only those roughly 76,000 voters who took Democratic ballots in the primary. Ballots of voters participating in the Republican and Progressive primaries will not be recounted.

A second reason for hope this time is that more towns have moved from paper ballots to optical-scanning machines and running the ballots through the machines again is faster than counting them by hand.

But no one appeared to know if it would play out that way.

"The jury’s out as to whether it will be faster or slower than a hand count," Crawford said. "Hopefully, it will be faster."


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