Salmon gaining in auditor recount
By ROSS SNEYD The Associated Press | December 12,2006
MONTPELIER — With a recount still under way, Democrat Thomas M. Salmon has picked up more than enough votes to overturn his razor-thin Nov. 7 loss to incumbent Auditor Randy Brock, according to unofficial ballot totals obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
Thousands of votes — including those in three of Vermont's most populous counties — remained uncounted in the week-old recount, which won't be finished until all of the approximately 250,000 ballots cast in the race are counted again and a Superior Court judge certifies the results.
But the trend is unmistakably in favor of Salmon, who lost by 137 votes on Election Day, according to county clerks polled Monday by the Associated Press.
Salmon and Brock both were picking up votes as counties finished their work and tallied the results. But it was Salmon who was picking up the most — enough to overcome the 137-vote deficit that the secretary of state's office reported.
Chittenden, Rutland and Windsor counties still were counting ballots at the close of business Monday. The Associated Press obtained the results in all of the counties that were done except Grand Isle and Windham.
Of the nine counties whose results were available, Salmon had gained 302 votes and Brock had gained 37, for a net gain of 265 for the Democratic challenger.
The trend in every county that's compiled and released its statistics so far is in favor of Salmon picking up votes, largely at the expense of Jerry Levy, the Liberty Union candidate whose name appeared on the ballot just before Salmon's.
Secretary of State Deborah 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.
Elections officials in those communities split up ballots in lots of 50 or 100 and count them, recording the results on tally sheets. Those totals then are transferred to a master list for a final townwide count.
In the auditor's race, it appears that in a number of communities, votes that should have been transferred from the tally sheets to Salmon's total actually went to Levy, whose name was just above 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.
She attributed the problem to the design of some tally and summary sheets, which her office likely will consider redesigning.
Hardwick is an example. The official results reported to the secretary of state's office gave Salmon 518 votes and Levy 44. But the more painstaking hand recount gave Salmon 542 votes in Hardwick to 20 for Levy.
"Election workers were working late at night and it's easy to make that kind of error," Markowitz said.
There have been fewer changes in the outcome of votes in communities that use machines, such as an optical scanner. "In towns that use a tabulator we're finding a very high level of accuracy," Markowitz said.
She emphasized that counties representing more than 100,000 votes had not reported their results and it could be next week, possibly later, before Judge Mary Miles Teachout can confirm the outcome of the election.
Salmon said he'd gotten some updates but was waiting for all of the counting to be completed.
"I'm certainly not going to count any chickens yet," he said.
Attempts to reach Brock were unsuccessful.