A legislative committee will get to work next week deciding whether to authorize a recount in a Vermont House race.
The House Government Operations Committee officially got its assignment Friday to look at the Orange County race between Republican Bob Frenier of Chelsea and Progressive Susan Hatch Davis of the town of Washington.
In a report filed with the legislature this week, Assistant Attorney General Michael Duane advised that the House has broad authority to decide whether to order another recount or not.
The race has followed a winding path since election day in November, when it appeared Frenier won by eight votes. After Hatch Davis, the incumbent, petitioned for a recount by electronic tabulator, his lead shrunk to six. A judge declined Hatch Davis’ request for a hand recount and after examining several disputed ballots, declared Frenier the winner.
But Hatch Davis, who served in the House for the last 10 years, pursued her challenge of the election to the legislature, appealing to her former colleagues to examine whether absentee ballots were treated differently in different towns within the district. She is asking for a full recount of all ballots by hand.
Committee chair Maida Townsend (D-South Burlington) said she’s still examining the options her panel has. She said she hopes to hear from the candidates and their lawyers next Thursday and Friday, and to then make a decision the following week.
Tom Koch, a former Republican House member who is Frenier’s lawyer, said he hopes the committee will simply decide Frenier was rightfully declared the winner.
Vince Illuzzi, a former Republican senator serving as Hatch Davis’ lawyer, said he hopes the committee will order a recount that includes all absentee ballots that were cast.
Hatch Davis contends that different town clerks used different criteria in declaring absentee ballots spoiled. In at least one town, the votes were tossed if the voter did not seal the ballot’s inner envelope. She has also argued that ballots that were incorrectly folded for storage may not have been read correctly by electronic vote tabulators.