After a recount of votes that took the better part of Wednesday, Milton Republican Leland Morgan and incumbent Democrat Mitzi Johnson prevailed in the Grand Isle-Chittenden House district race, with very little change from the general election ballot count.
Incumbent Democrat Ben Joseph called for the recount after hearing there were some uncounted ballots during the Nov. 6 general election. At the North Hero courthouse Wednesday, he said he won his primary race two years ago after a recount and thought he would try again.
The initial tally showed Joseph, the four-way race’s last place finisher, with 58 votes behind Leland Morgan, who was elected to the seat with the second-highest number of votes. Joseph came in 26 votes behind Michael Morgan, Leland’s nephew.
After the recount, the spread between Joseph and Leland Morgan margin decreased to just 53 votes.
The Morgans ran in the general election on a joint Republican ticket. After the recount, Leland Morgan finished just 28 votes ahead of his nephew. Johnson ended up with three more votes than were counted in the general.
Will Senning, director of elections for the Vermont Secretary of State, presided over the recount, along with Grand Isle county clerk Susan Wheeler and Grand Isle town clerk Melissa Boutin.
Senning said the recount process, which took approximately five hours, went very well. He attributed the success to a change in the process, which had the counting teams separate ballots with clearly marked bubbles from those without. The ballots with marked bubbles immediately went into the tabulator, while the more questionable ones were hand counted, he explained.
Prior to the change, every ballot would have run through the tabulator and then hand-counted.
“That change has been very successful,” Senning said. “A lot fewer questions are being raised on the floor.”
Election officials first ran a test ballot through the machine to ensure it was working. A tech from the tabulator company was also on hand to address any technical issues right away, ultimately saving time and headaches, Senning said.
Neither Leland Morgan, Michael Morgan, nor Johnson attended the recount. Leland Morgan and Mitzi Johnson spent the day in Montpelier at the annual legislative briefing.
“I’ve learned a tremendous amount,” he said Wednesday night adding he’s glad the recount is over and is excited he can head to Montpelier in January to start his time in office.
He said he will focus on reform measures to clean up Lake Champlain, which surrounds much of his district, and high school taxes and dealing with declining school populations.
Before the results were in, Joseph had similar ideas about what he would work on in Montpelier if re-elected. Though Joseph won’t be returning to the capital next session, he said he’ll spend the time considering his next steps now that the recount is over.
“I have some ideas,” he said.