Ballot recount affirms Wygmans’ win
MIDDLEBURY — Addison County State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans can finally exhale after three weeks of not knowing whether he’d be able to keep his job.
Wygmans’ state of professional limbo ended on Tuesday evening after a recount of ballots cast in the Nov. 6 election expanded his victory over independent challenger Peter Bevere from 10 to 21 votes.
Wygmans had been credited with a 7,803 to 7,793 win in the general election, a close margin that prompted Bevere to request a recount. That recount — involving a 12-person panel — began Monday morning and ended Tuesday afternoon, producing a new tally of 7,816 for Wygmans and 7,795 for Bevere.
As the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday a judge had yet to render a verdict on 10 ballots that were deemed “questionable” by the recount committee. But the new 21-vote margin for Wygmans meant he would still prevail even if the judge rules all 10 of the questionable ballots should go into the Bevere column.
Wygmans was grateful for the results and the opportunity to continue in a job he said he enjoys and believes he’s performed at a high level.
He also gave kudos to Bevere.
“I want to congratulate Peter on a well-run campaign,” Wygmans, a South Burlington Democrat, said of his competitor. “I really appreciate the effort he put in.”
With a new four-year mandate, Wygmans will be able to press forward confidently as the county’s lead prosecutor. He must also fill three looming vacancies on his staff; two deputy state’s attorneys and a victims’ advocate are moving on to new jobs. The two deputies — Chris Perkett and Rebecca Otey — are launching their own law firm in Bristol.
ANDREW PEZZULO AND Matthew Hart confer during the recount Monday.
Independent photo/John S. McCright
Wygmans, during a brief phone interview Wednesday morning, said he’s trying to improve compensation and benefits for both the victims’ advocate job (filled most recently by Jennifer Ricard) and the deputy prosecutor job (held by Otey). By so doing, Wygmans believes both jobs will draw more applicants. He hopes to have all three positions filled by early next year.
In the meantime, Wygmans knows he’ll have to work longer hours to pick up the slack. And he’ll reach out to other state’s attorneys and the attorney general’s office if he needs temporary prosecutors to help out until his office is fully staffed.
Bevere will continue his job as chief deputy prosecutor for Rutland County. The Middlebury resident had seen the Addison County state’s attorney job as an opportunity to use his law skills to help his community. While he said he’s “not getting rid of my (campaign) signs just yet” for a possible 2022 run for the job, he said he’s satisfied with the recount results and congratulated Wygmans on his win.
“While we were hopeful that the recount would go our way, we are far from disappointed,” Bevere said. “As I indicated after the election, I felt we ran a good campaign against an incumbent Democrat. I’m very appreciative of the efforts of (Addison County Clerk) Kelly Munger and the recount committee and want to thank everyone who dedicated the past two days to ensure the accuracy of the process.”
It was indeed a laborious process.
The recount committee was made up of six appointees from both Wygmans and Bevere. Under the watchful eyes of Munger and Vermont elections chief Will Senning, the committee inspected and re-inspected each ballot, in stacks of 50.
Ballots that were properly filled out by voters were sent through to an automatic tabulating machine. Any ballots in which the voter’s intent could potentially be in doubt — such cases where an oval wasn’t fully inked — were separated out and individually interpreted as best as possible by committee members.
MEMBERS OF BOTH candidates’ recount committees worked for two days to produce a new tally of 7,816 votes for Wygmans and 7,795 for Bevere.
Independent photo/John S. McCright
Wygmans and Bevere designees had to jointly agree on the status of questionable ballots, and ultimately found just 10 that they determined needed a judge’s interpretation. The committee found 10 to 20 percent of the total ballots hadn’t been properly filled out due to incompletely inked ovals or other issues, according to Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, one of Wygmans’ recount panelists.
For example, some voters put a checkmark next to their candidate of choice, Bray said during a break in Monday’s recount. Another person had mistakenly filled in both ovals, crossed one out after realizing their mistake, then drew an arrow to their preferred candidate with the words “This one.”
Bray marveled at the non-contentious nature of the recount process he witnessed, calling it “a perfect example of regular democratic, civil, down-to-earth work.”
“I haven’t seen a shred of anything other than people being pleasant, simple, and agreeing with what they’re seeing,” Bray said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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