Your Vote Does Count

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Thursday March 15, 2012

When it comes right down to it, your vote does count.  In fact, it was counted twice.

After the polls closed and the ballots were counted Tuesday evening, March 6th, only four votes separated City Council candidates Pam Mackenzie (941) and Chris Shaw (937) in the contest for the two-year seat.  The third candidate, Tracey Tapley, received 678 votes.  At Shaw’s request, a recount was scheduled. 
In an email to Shaw, Mackenzie wrote, “As I have said all along, the community was fortunate to have three well-qualified candidates to choose from.  Whatever the outcome, I would like to be able to count on your input, guidance and friendship—you bring a wealth of knowledge to the table and our community will be better served if we can count on your participation.”

Last Thursday’s recount yielded slightly different numbers, but ultimately the outcome was the same; Mackenzie prevailed as the new City Councilor with 942 votes over Shaw’s 940. Tapley came in with 675 votes in the recount.

Shaw believes that voter turn-out was key.  “I only lost by two votes. South Burlingtonians should see that their vote always counts and they can make a difference in the outcome of an election.  Although I felt I was the best and most qualified choice for South Burlington, Pam’s campaign was well-organized, connected and funded. The real estate businesses worked hard to get out their vote. Tracey’s grassroots campaign was heartening. She should be very proud, and we can use more of her great work and effort. A 3-way race was exciting to be in and being challenged is important for refining and articulating your perspective. The result encourages me and I hope it encourages Tracey too for the next time.” 

City Clerk Donna Kinville does not recall a vote for a city seat that has been that close, but noted a recent school budget decision that was separated by only six votes, with exactly the same results when recounted.

Kinville relayed that the recount Thursday evening enlisted the work of sixteen people over the course of just under two hours. The ballots had been locked away since Tuesday, divided by district into four sealed bags.

At each of four tables, two 2-person teams called out names and marked their counts on color coded and numbered sheets, eventually passing counted ballots to the second group to do the same. 

A few discrepancies were discovered in the recount.  According to Kinville, discrepancies can be caused by a variety of reasons, including the machine not correctly reading an oval which wasn’t completely filled in, or by a voter circling names instead of filling in the oval,  using  Xs , or crossing out entire items on the ballot. Any ballot that was questioned was then looked at by four separate election officials before a decision was made about the intent of that particular ballot. 

Additionally, approximately 15 voters ‘wrote in’ a candidate of their choice.  While there were no hanging chads in South Burlington’s contest, there were votes written in for “somebody else” and Mickey Mouse.

Even with all the ballot items passing resoundingly, and the other Council and School Board seats being won by large percentages, the very close contest for the two-year Council seat certainly proves that every single vote counts here in South Burlington.