Members of the legislature's canvassing committee tally ballots.
Updated at 12:52 p.m.
In a joint session of the Vermont legislature, 179 lawmakers voted Thursday morning to reelect Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin to a third term.
By secret ballot, legislators cast 110 votes for Shumlin and 69 for Republican Scott Milne.
Thursday’s vote brought to a close a highly unusual process that began when no candidate cleared the constitutional threshold of 50 percent of the popular vote in last November’s election. That put the final decision in the hands of the legislature, whose members were free to choose from among the top three vote getters: Shumlin, Milne and Libertarian Dan Feliciano.
Though Shumlin edged out Milne 46.4 percent to 45.1 percent in November — a margin of just 2,434 votes — the Pomfret Republican declined to concede the election, a break from recent tradition.
In the days preceding Thursday’s vote, Milne asked Vermonters to call their delegates to urge them to support him. He and Shumlin said they weren't personally lobbying legislators, but both spent time mingling with them in the Statehouse Wednesday.
Scott Milne addresses members of the press.
In a statement released shortly after the vote, Shumlin said he was “so grateful for the opportunity to continue serving this state I love.” He predicted the new legislative session would be “productive” and pledged to “expand our economy, grow jobs and increase affordability.”
Addressing a scrum of reporters immediately after the election, Milne said he was pleased with the way the process played out.
“I think it’s been a good day for Vermont. I was happy to be part of it,” he said. “I think the road that’s led us here has … gotten a lot of people feeling like one person can make a difference.”
Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Senate Secretary John Bloomer confer as legislators cast ballots.
Legislators cast their ballots without debate Thursday morning. Only Rep. Don Turner (R-Milton), the House minority leader, addressed the joint assembly, saying the extended election had been good for the state and its democracy. He said more people had contacted him about the vote in recent months than in the rest of his eight years in the House.
Though some lawmakers and commentators had floated the notion of changing the legislature’s rules to force a public vote, Senate Secretary John Bloomer told those assembled that the state constitution required a secret ballot. No motions were made to contest that interpretation.
Many legislators have publicly revealed their choice for governor and some held up their ballots after filling them out. But there is no way to know which legislators crossed party lines to support another candidate.
The legislature includes 104 Democrats, 62 Republicans, eight Progressives and six independents.
According to Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell, the governor was in meetings in his office next door to the Statehouse when the legislature took its vote. He was scheduled to be sworn in and deliver an inaugural address later Thursday afternoon.
Members of Milne’s family watched the proceedings from the House chamber, but the candidate himself said he thought it more appropriate to stay farther afield.
Tailed by two members of the Vermont State Police tasked with protecting him until the election result was clear, Milne strolled from the House lobby to the Statehouse cafeteria as voting took place.
Greeting several cafeteria workers, he told them, “I think the tone’s been good. It’s been healthy.”
After hearing that members of the legislature’s canvassing committee had collected all the ballots, Milne made his way back to the House lobby. He paused briefly in the Cedar Creek Room, checking his phone to see how he might get in touch with Shumlin.
Milne told a friend passing by that he expected to lose the election. Standing outside the House chamber a few minutes later, he learned he had, indeed, lost by 41 votes.