By MIKE DONOGHUE
ISLANDER STAFF WRITER
NORTH HERO -- The recount for the Grand Isle-West Milton legislative race is set for Friday at the North Hero Community Hall.
Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero requested the recount when it appeared she fell short of re-election to Republican Michael R. Morgan of West Milton by 20 votes.
The final tally, according to Secretary of State Jim Condos, for the two-seat district showed:
Rep. Leland J. Morgan, R-West Milton, the top vote getter at 2,776 and his nephew, Michael Morgan with 2,627 as the apparent winners.
Johnson, who has served for 18 years in the legislature, trailed with 2607 votes. Democratic Andy Julow, who lost in the primary four years ago, finished with 2,404.
There was the potential for 11,570 votes for state legislators by 5,785 people voting. There were 1,146 blank votes, or about 10 percent of the potential total turnout between early voting and in-person balloting.
Michael Morgan carried his home precinct of West Milton with 495 votes, while Johnson took her hometown of South Hero with 759. Julow was first in his town of North Hero with 365.
That left Rep. Morgan as the top individual vote-getter for each of the three remaining towns: Grand Isle (670), Alburgh (602) and Isle La Motte (184).
Johnson, who has been the Speaker of the 150-member House for 4 years, remains busy trying to get the upcoming sessions ready, even if she is not there.
The Grand Isle/West Milton race is the lone recount from all the statewide and local contests in the Vermont General Election, Condos said.
The recount begins at 9 a.m. and is open to the public, but with COVID-19 concerns officials are asking people as to whether they need to attend.
“I want this to be as safe as possible,” Grand Isle County Clerk Susan Bohannon told The Islander.
Bohannon said the plan is to require masks for all counters, candidates, media, officials and anybody wanting to attend. She said hand sanitizers and gloves will be available and physical distancing will be in place.
“We are having the recount at the Community Hall. It is a much larger space,” Bohannon said.
Two years ago a legislative recount in the general election was held in the upstairs courtroom at the Grand Isle County Courthouse in North Hero. Four years ago a legislative recount in the primary election was conducted at the Chamber of Commerce Office in North Hero.
Five of the six towns used voting machines this year. Isle La Motte used hand counting.
Towns with 1,000 registered voters or more are required to use machines, Condos said. He said about a half dozen towns were able to obtain voting machines this year when COVID-19 relief funds were made available for free to Vermont towns.
Bohannon said vote tabulating machines from Alburgh, Grand Isle and Milton will be brought in to help process all the ballots as each town count is conducted. One local election official from each of those three towns will help monitor their tabulator, she said.
Bohannon said the three machines should help speed the process. Two years ago the recount used only one tabulator.
The ballots were due to be delivered to the county courthouse by the six towns on Tuesday. Teams of one Democrat and one Republican from each town were directed to make the delivery, Bohannon said. The ballots will be stored in the vault until Friday.
The Grand Isle County Sheriff’s Department will provide a deputy sheriff on Friday to deliver the ballots from the courthouse down the street to the community hall for the recount and will remain on duty until the work is complete, Bohannon said.
She said she plans to work with Grand Isle County Assistant Judges Joanne Batchelder and Sherri Potvin on Thursday setting up the Community Hall so the counting areas are spread out.
The four candidates were asked to submit possible names to be part of the recount. As of last week Judge Robert Mello had appointed the following:
Democrats Bob Ayres, Diane Bahrenburg, Leisa Fearing, Susan Davis, Jeff Potvin, Michael Inners, Tim Bourne, Claire LaVoie, Jenn Wood and Harry Parker.
Republicans Rose-Marie Cheeseman, Mary Louise Lombard, Robert Lombard, Robert Griswold, John Larabee, Jeffrey Parizo, Yancy Martell, John LaBarge, Roland Latimer and Wendell Noble.
Bohannon said she believed the judge would whittle the list to six for each party with the remaining members serving as alternates as needed.
The past two recounts had some theatrics and in one case the vote was overturned. Four years ago retired State Judge Ben Joseph of North Hero was able to overtake Andy Julow of North Hero in the Democratic primary when South Hero made mistakes recording vote totals.
Two years ago there was some question about whether a ballot bag in South Hero had been compromised, but eventually was cleared, officials said.