By Shay Totten | Vermont Guardian
Posted November 14, 2006
ROCKINGHAM — Democrat Tom Salmon, Jr., said today he will ask election officials to conduct a statewide recount of votes in a race where 137 votes separate him and incumbent Republican Randy Brock for the post of auditor of accounts.
The contest was the closest of any of the statewide races. Along with Salmon and Brock, Progressive Martha Abbott garnered 9 percent of the roughly 250,000 votes cast.
Salmon, the son of former Gov. Tom Salmon, is a selectboard member from Rockingham. This was his first statewide race. This was Brock’s first reelection bid, after defeating two-term incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Ready in 2004.
On election night, Salmon called Brock to congratulate him on a narrow victory, which at the time was reported to be about 900 votes. Official votes released Tuesday by the Secretary of State's office showed Brock's lead had narrowed to 137 votes.
“But now it’s a different dimension,” said Salmon. “With the new information, nobody faults me for saying that we need to recount the votes.”
Brock, however, while noting that Salmon has the right to ask for a recount, didn’t believe the recount was warranted.
“It’s very costly, time consuming and disruptive, and based on history it is unlikely to make any difference,” said Brock. “But, this is all part of the process and we’ll do what we need to do.”
Salmon will make his request official Thursday morning in Washington Superior Court in Barre.
According to Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, the county clerk in Washington County will then set the date for the recount to begin, likely in early December to accommodate the Thanksgiving holiday.
On the date of the recount, state police will deliver the sacks of ballots to each county clerk, where recount teams will be assembled. A recount is more onerous than a regular vote tabulation because not only are there bipartisan teams counting the votes, but the teams watching the counters are also bipartisan teams, Markowitz noted.
Then, each county delivers its recount to Washington Superior Court, where a judge certifies the results. If there are problems raised about the recount, it could end up forcing a whole new election, Markowitz said.
Markowitz said it could take a week for the recount to be completed and certified.
Salmon knows the process will take time, but he believes a recount is reasonable given the close outcome.
“I had too many supporters urging me for a recount and 250,000 voters voted in this race and they deserve to know the outcome,” said Salmon. “A recount is both reasonable and its appropriate, and those are two unemotional reasons.”
The recount will be the first of a statewide race since 1962, said Markowitz,. In 1958, a similar recount was held.
“In neither case did it change the outcome of the race,” said Markowitz
In 1962, Phil Hoff became the first Democrats ever elected to the governor’s office. At the time, both sides ended up gaining votes in the recount. Hoff picked up 33 additional votes and Republican F. Ray Keyser picked up 18 votes, said Markowitz.
In the 1958 governor’s race a recount took place between Republican Bob Stafford and Democrat Bernard Leddy. Stafford won.
Brock said he had never given thought to contesting the election results, even when it looked as if he might lose on election night.
He chalked up his narrow victory, to date, based on the fact that it was a bad year to run as a Republican, given the national sentiment. And, he conceded that he doesn’t have the name recognition that Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie have.
“You also can’t discount the value of the Salmon name,” said Brock. “It’s like running against a Kennedy in Massachusetts.”
Brock said the outcome proves one thing: “It really shows how important each vote is; this really brings it home.”