The Republican party recently sent out a press release attacking Progressives for seeking to ensure the accuracy of the Orange-1 vote count and for raising concerns about the conduct of the recount and election itself. While it is common practice for political parties to respond to election challenges in a hyper partisan manner, there were major inaccuracies in the Republican press release. To correct the record, we have compiled this side-by-side response.
Claim: Democrats and Progressives in the State House are actively seeking to unseat Rep. Robert Frenier (R) in favor of defeated former Progressive Party Representative Susan Hatch Davis.
FACTS: Progressives are standing up for accurate election results and an accurate recount process regardless of the result. In the Orange-1 House race there were serious issues with both the conduct of the election and the conduct of the recount. These issues must be resolved for voters to have confidence in the vote count. Before the recount results were known, the executive director of the Republican Party stated in an interview to the Valley News that
“’We definitely have some questions,’ Bartley said. ‘The process is unclear. There are three (House) recounts across the state (today). They’re all being done differently.’”
– Jeff Bartley
In the Buxton v. Ainsworth race this year, the election result changed in favor of the Republican after a second recount. The second recount was conducted in a manner that ensured accuracy and left the losing candidate and her supporters feeling confident in the integrity of the election. Similarly, Susan Hatch Davis will accept the results of a second recount.
Claim: Susan Hatch Davis requested a judge order a second recount, this time by hand versus a machine count. The judge rejected this request.
FACTS: There were many issues raised during the hearing regarding the conduct of the election and recount. The judge determined that she did not have the authority to rule on the serious claim that absentee ballots were treated differently from town to town resulting in properly submitted ballots being rejected. The Judge ruled that only the Vermont State House of Representatives may rule on the conduct of the election. Following this decision, Susan Hatch Davis filed a motion with the Secretary of State to investigate the conduct of the election to ensure that all votes that were properly submitted are counted.
Claim: Vermont Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos said the decision of the judge serves as Rep. Frenier’s certificate of election.
FACTS: It is common practice for a member of the Vermont State House of Representatives to be seated pending the result of an investigation into the conduct of an election and a final decision by the Legislature. This is done to ensure that those who live in the district have full representation.
Claim: The House Committee on Government Operations superseded the responsibilities of locally elected Justice of the Peace and Board of Civil Authority members, town clerks, the certified election night results, the certified recount results, the certified results of the court challenge and the judicial branch of our state government itself.
FACTS: The Vermont State Constitution gives the House of Representatives the right to
“judge of the elections and qualifications of their own members”
For challenges to the conduct of an election, the Legislature is the appropriate venue, not the courts. This is a fundamental principle of the separation of powers. The Legislature has full authority under the Vermont State Constitution to determine if a recount or election was conducted in a way that gives voters confidence in the outcome and may order a new recount or election if it deems necessary.