Orange-1 recount: The ending

The matter of the Orange-1 recount had an unexpected abrupt ending. It was called off the day it was to begin. There was no recount, and Robert Frenier was declared the winner over Susan Hatch Davis.

The recount was set to begin on the morning of February 22. The following statement later that day by Representative Townsend of South Burlington, chair of the House Committee on Government Operations, explains what happened (House Journal p. 308):

This morning the recount panel for the contested election in Orange-1 found an issue with a ballot bag that triggered a provision in our rules and procedures to cancel the recount. The issue was that the tag seal number listed by the county clerk following the recount of November 28, 2016 did not match the tag seal number now on that same ballot bag. This resulted from the bag having been opened on January 3, 2017 for retrieval of the Entrance Checklist. The bag was opened with permission from and following guidance provided by the Office of the Secretary of State. It was resealed with a different tag seal number. The House Government Operations Committee learned of this occurrence the morning before the scheduled recount. Had we known of it prior to the policies and procedures being developed, the policies and procedures to be followed would have included language to cover that occurrence. That was not the case, and since the tag seal numbers did not match, the recount could not go forward.

The provision in the procedures referenced above is as follows (House Journal p. 218):

If it is found that any seal or container has been tampered with, the recount shall not move forward and Representative Frenier shall retain his seat.

The combination of this rule and the occurrences described above were enough for the House Committee on Government Operations to recommend that the recount not move forward and that Representative Frenier be declared the winner. The full House of Representatives agreed on February 22 by voice vote, thus bringing this matter to an end.

For more details see articles by VTDigger and Vermont Public Radio. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson issued a statement here. The Vermont Progressive Party issued a statement here.

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