Auditor recount starts MondayAP Photo/Toby Talbot
Sealed bags of ballots sit in a vault in Vermont Superior Court in Montpelier. Volunteers and county clerks are preparing to count by hand the 250,000 votes cast last month in the race for state auditor.
MONTPELIER — County clerks all over Vermont made final preparations Friday for the start of a vote recount in the Nov. 7 election for state auditor, which ended in a 137-vote victory for incumbent Randy Brock.
Beginning Monday, teams of volunteers in the state's 14 counties will count about 250,000 ballots to see if Brock's win over Democrat Thomas M. Salmon stands. Salmon, son of former Gov. Thomas Salmon, requested the do-over, which will be Vermont's first statewide recount since 1980.
State police have completed their canvass of town clerks' offices to collect the sealed bags of ballots and delivered them to all 14 county courthouses.
On Monday morning, Superior Court clerks begin cracking open the bags, counting out 50 ballots at a time, and handing them to teams of four people to recount. It's a laborious process that could take some time to sort out and complete.
"We've been talking about that," said Sandra Holt, chief deputy clerk in Washington County. "We're not quite sure. At least a week, perhaps longer."
Washington County is one of the larger counties in the state and likely will need more time to get through the count. Chittenden County, the largest, needed seven days to recount the results of the Democratic Party primary for state Senate in September.
But there are a lot more ballots to sort through this time, although the recount is simpler since voters could choose only one candidate for auditor — unlike the six slots that Chittenden County voters had to fill on their state Senate ballots.
Officials estimate the process will be completed in a week to 10 days. Each county clerk will forward the vote totals to the Washington County clerk, who will present them to Superior Court Judge Mary Miles Teachout for a final judgment.
Few people involved in the project were willing to predict its outcome.
There have been recounts in a handful of legislative districts, but the final totals changed only slightly from the count reported a week after Election Day. None of the outcomes changed. Officials say they can't predict whether that will be the case again between Brock and Salmon.
Kathy DeWolfe, director of elections in the secretary of state's office, said state law makes provisions for a tie, if that's what the recount concludes. The judge would have to order a "recessed election" within three weeks.
"The chance of it resulting in a tie, well, anything's possible, but probably pretty slender," DeWolfe said.
There's also the possibility that any legal voter could contest the outcome in court.
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