September 30, 2012

Smith was a valid write-in vote - State statute clear

Letter to Editor, Burlington Free Press, Sept. 23, 2012 

It is strange, very strange, that an empty oval would suddenly gain the status of a hanging chad.
A hanging chad, we all remember from the election debacle of 2000, became a culprit in the disenfranchisement of hundreds of Florida voters. Chads were left hanging, and voters’ votes were left hanging. Uncounted. The course of American history hung along with them.
Some Vermont town clerks appear to have been flummoxed by the specter of the empty oval. There the empty oval remained, on Aug. 28, next to an unknown number of write-in votes for Annette Smith.
And, it appears, our Secretary of State’s Office, which is responsible for training our hard-working town clerks, did not provide the following, which I offer here for future and potential write-in candidates:
Vermont Statute §2586: Rules for Counting Ballots (e) In the case of “write-in” votes, the act of writing in the name of a candidate, or pasting a label containing a candidate’s name upon the ballot, without other indications of the voter’s intent, shall constitute a vote for that candidate, even though no cross is placed after such name. The election officials counting ballots and tallying results must list every person who receives a “write-in” vote and the number of votes received. On each tally sheet, the counters shall add together the names of candidates that are clearly the same person, even though a nickname or last name is used. Names of fictitious persons shall not be listed.

September 13, 2012

North End Voters Challenge "Spoiled" Smith Ballot

Re-count Committee: Lea Terhune (Ward 4), Mary Jay Mulowney (Ward 4), Richard "Terry" Jeroloman, and Carol Burke.
Pre-recount instructions (given by election official) included the directive that we could not count Smith, A. Smith, or Ann Smith as a valid write-in vote, because Smith is a common name in VT. People questioned that, and we were told that it was a decision made by Sec of State Condos based on Election Law.
When our committee encountered this example, we felt the voter's intent was clear. We called the election official to our table, and questioned the decision that "Smith" was not an acceptable write-in vote. The official told us it could not be counted as a write-in vote for Annette Smith, and she  instructed us to count it on our tally sheet as a SPOILED ballot. (That did not make sense to us either, because there was a category "combined other "[names].)  We made our objection known to the press -- told them our concerns, and our objections to the ruling. Bottom line: isn't it our job to determine the voter's intent?
Later on we learned that a reporter had checked with Jim Condos, and Condos said he did not exactly say we couldn't count a write-in for "Smith." We went to the election official, and asked to amend our tally sheet. The official admitted that she had talked with Jim Condos and that he affirmed that the will of the voter was our determination to make. She offered to let us amend our tally. I pointed out that every other group recounting got the same misinformation, and could have failed to fairly consider a Smith write in because we were told "Smith" could not be counted based on election law.
All four of the people who signed our tally sheet were present and in agreement that the voter's intent was to vote for (Annette) Smith. We voided the original tally, and filled out two new tally sheets, marked AMENDED, and all signed the new amended tally sheets.
Later when speaking with the press, the election official said she told us it was our decision to make, but she DID NOT tell us that. She told the person who was filling out our tally sheet (MJ Mulowney) to record the "Smith" write-in ballot as spoiled.
Most important, the election official never told others conducting the recount that "Smith" or a variation was acceptable IF they determined it was the intent of the voter to write-in a vote for Annette Smith. So everyone recounting today in Burlington got mis-information regarding the eligibility of Smith variation write-ins. Even when the election official knew she had given out misinformation, she did not correct it. Presumably, the same misinformation was given statewide.

Statewide election that hinged on 1 vote, interpretation could make the difference. It turned out 2 B wrong. #BTV