MONTPELIER, Vt. — As the House on Thursday approved rules for a second recount of the race between Republican state Rep. Bob Frenier and Progressive Susan Hatch Davis, Republican leaders accused majority Democrats and Progressives of preparing to steal an election.
“I see this as just a ploy by socialist Democrats and Progressives to steal away an election that was won fairly by a Republican,” state Rep. Thomas Terenzini, R-Rutland, said from the House floor.
State Rep. Oliver Olsen, I-Londonderry, moved to cut off Terenzini for commenting on the motivations for the recount, but Terenzini wasn’t finished expressing what Republicans have said in other forums about Frenier’s Election Day victory, which was recounted once already and certified multiple times — including by a Superior Court judge and the Vermont secretary of state.
“I think we should get that gentleman back from Wyoming to have another ethics class because this body has no ethics,” Terenzini said.
Olsen’s attempt to suppress such comments had little effect, however, as other Republicans blasted the recount.
“I believe that the town clerks, the VCA members and everyone that was involved in the Orange-1 district — including the two judges that certified this election — did their job and did it well. There is no reason for this recount,” state Rep. Rodney Graham, R-Williamstown, said.
House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, one of three people appointed to judge contested ballots in the upcoming recount, also questioned the justification for counting votes a third time.
“We had outlined all the reasons why we shouldn’t be doing this recount. I stand by that, and I stand by my vote that questioning the integrity of the electoral process in Vermont with really no justification doesn’t make sense,” Turner said.
The Democrat majority’s push for a third counting of ballots has been criticized as a naked power grab, especially by Republicans who say a reversal of Frenier’s victory would all but eliminate their ability to sustain vetoes by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. The current make-up of the House is 83 Democrats, 54 Republicans, six Progressives and seven independents.
However, two nonpartisan town clerks involved in the first recount accused Government Operations Committee Chair Maida Townsend — the former chair of the Vermont Democratic Party and leading advocate of the recount — of wrongly denigrating and mischaracterizing their work.
Turner highlighted significant differences between the new rules of the House and the standard election rules of the state of Vermont. In particular, he noted that the new rules have no limit on the number of ballots that can be challenged.
“So think about this — if I’m a Vermonter and I voted in Orange-1, and I know that the outcome was separated by seven ballots and I wanted to steal the election, the way to do that is to get eight ballots thrown out,” Turner said. “And the only resolution is to go to a partisan committee to determine whether they should be counted or not. That in my mind raises great concern.”
After the debate ended, the House approved the recount rules by a voice vote.
The rules were written up and approved by the House Government Operations Committee on Tuesday, and they mostly consist of chain-of-custody and other security details. If any tampering is found with a container of ballots, the recount will be called off and Frenier will remain the district’s representative.
The second recount could take place as soon as next Wednesday, and potentially will carry over to the following day. LHS Associates, an election services company from Salem, N.H., will program the memory card for the tabulator machine.