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Primary Source: Ainsworth Appears to Win Recount by One Vote

  • Unable to come to an agreement on the intent of a vote on a poorly marked ballot, recounters, from foreground left, Pat McDonald, Dan Kinney, Neal Fox, and Conor Kennedy, decide to mark the ballot as questionable during a second recount of the legislative race between Sarah Buxton D - Tunbridge and David Ainsworth, of Royalton, at the Windsor County Clerk's office in Woodstock, Vt., Wednesday, December 14, 2016. Royalton Town Clerk, Karmen Bascom, back left, and Windsor County Clerk Pepper Tepperman, back right, supervise. The quesionable ballot will be sealed and sent to Judge Robert Gerety. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Windsor County election officials spent another long day in Woodstock on Wednesday, laboriously assessing and recounting ballots in the race for the Vermont House district representing Royalton and Tunbridge.

A little after 7 p.m., Royalton Republican David Ainsworth learned he has apparently defeated state Rep. Sarah Buxton, D-Tunbridge, by one vote, with one ballot where voter intent was in question, but which had previously been adjudged in Ainsworth’s favor, not included in the count and set aside for Judge Robert Gerety to consider, if it comes to that.

“It’s 1,004 to 1,003, with the one questionable ballot the judge still has to decide on, or I’m not sure what he’ll do,” Ainsworth said in a phone interview. “I’m relieved it’s over.”

Ainsworth said Buxton, his four-time rival, congratulated him after the tally was announced and the two hugged, but he was uncertain whether she might file an appeal on the recount. Messages left for Buxton were not immediately returned. Her attorney, Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, confirmed Ainsworth’s assessment of the tally.

On Election Day, Buxton had a three-vote lead over Ainsworth, but a recount on Nov. 21 found the two tied, 1,000-1,000.

Ainsworth, a vegetable and dairy farmer who served on the House Agriculture Committee, lost his seat by one vote to Buxton in 2010. He said he hopes to regain his seat on the House Agriculture Committee, especially with the burdens Act 64, a new law intended to clean up Vermont waterways, is now placing on farmers.

“With this Act 64 being enacted and required agricultural practices maybe needing to be tuned up, I think it would be good to have an active farmer on the Ag Committee,” he said.

Buxton served on the House Education Committee and had taken some courageous votes, including in support of the Act 46 school consolidation law that has put pressure on small school districts in the White River Valley to consider merging.

Meanwhile, a hearing is scheduled in Vermont Superior Court in Chelsea on Friday morning in the race for an Orange 1 House seat representing the towns of Chelsea, Vershire, Corinth, Washington, Williamstown and Orange. A machine recount last month showed Chelsea Republican Bob Frenier edging out state Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, P-Washington, by six votes. She has asked a judge to order a hand tally, which may not be allowed under a law enacted in 2014.

Domicile Debate Ahead

New Hampshire Republican Gov.-elect Chris Sununu made headlines last month when he indicated he favors scrapping New Hampshire’s same-day voter registration law, saying it fosters “drive-by voting” by some voters who want to have an impact on national elections in the small swing state.

In fact, the real focus may be not on same-day registration but on “domicile,” which voters must declare is in New Hampshire in order to vote here. The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s website says domicile “for voting purposes is that one place where a person, more than any other place, has established a physical presence and manifests an intent to maintain a single continuous presence for domestic, social, and civil purposes relevant to participating in democratic self-government.”

State Rep. David Bates, a Windham Republican and former chairman of the House Election Law Committee, says he has filed some 15 bills related to voting reform, many of them focusing on tightening state law so that domicile is clearly regarded the same as residency. What that could mean is that college students who claim domicile here might then have to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license and register their cars here.

Bates said he favors same-day registration, but that “I definitely want to be sure that everyone who is voting here is truly qualified, and that they are a resident of the state ... and require objective evidence of that, to weed out evidence of people who have been labeled ‘drive-by’ voters.”

Some Democrats have said New Hampshire’s high turnout is a signal that the current system works, and that election reform efforts are really a Republican effort to discourage the high number of New Hampshire college students, many with hometowns in other states, who vote here in presidential elections.

Briefly Noted

New Hampshire state Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, will serve on the Senate Judiciary and Health and Human Services committees; Haverhill-area Republican Bob Giuda on Senate Education and Finance panels; Newport-area Republican Ruth Ward on the Senate Education, Public and Municipal Affairs, and Transportation committees.

Wondering who the electors are from the Twin States? In Vermont, they are Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, Vermont-NEA President Martha Allen, and retiring state Rep. Timothy Jerman, D-Essex. In New Hampshire, the electors are U.S. Rep.-elect Carol Shea-Porter, former House Speaker Terie Norelli, former Senate President Bev Hollingworth and former Executive Councilor Dudley Dudley.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.