Vermont secretary of state delays canvassing of county primary votes, citing software glitch

Secretary of State Jim Condos in Montpelier in November 2020. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office on Friday delayed the canvassing of county votes cast in Tuesday’s primary elections, citing a software problem related to the state’s recent Legislative redistricting

A spokesperson for Secretary of State Jim Condos, Eric Covey, said their office had “full confidence” in the integrity of the election and the accuracy of vote totals. He said the problem was restricted to how election results are displayed in official reports to county canvassing committees. Statewide races were not affected by the glitch, he said. 

County canvassing committees are charged with tallying the official vote counts from cities and towns to determine the vote totals — and declare the winner — for candidates in county elections, such as state’s attorney, sheriff and state Senate. 

Those committees were originally scheduled to certify their county’s election results by 10 a.m. Friday. The Secretary of State’s Office would then certify the statewide results by 10 a.m. next Tuesday.

The county canvassing is now expected to take place early next week, Covey said, once the software glitch is resolved. His office is still anticipating being able to certify results statewide on Tuesday.

Covey said the state’s election software vendor had encountered an issue preventing them from generating reports that county clerks need in order to sign off on election results at county canvassing committee meetings.

The problem, Covey said, is specifically linked to the reporting of votes in state Senate districts. Those districts were previously drawn around municipal borders, so no town or city was divided into more than one Senate district. But after the Legislature voted to break up Chittenden County’s six-member district earlier this year, the resulting Senate districts bisect three municipalities: Burlington, Colchester and Essex Town.

“This complexity has led to instances of candidates appearing in the incorrect districts on the canvassing documents,” Covey said. 

The Secretary of State’s Office underscored that the county clerks’ canvassing is separate from municipal clerks’ official counting of ballots and certification of results. Those municipal counts are accurate and the best source of election results, Covey said.

“It is simply an issue of the software displaying the candidates in the correct districts,” he said. “The instances of this are very few but we are proceeding extremely carefully to ensure we maintain 100% accuracy.”

The software glitch has resulted in confusion around the outcome of some Senate races, particularly those that appear to be close. 

In the three-seat Chittenden County Central district, two candidates appeared to be two votes apart, according to an Associated Press count. That led one candidate, Democrat and Progressive Erhard Mahnke, to file for a recount on Thursday. 

“I’m not at all confident that the results that are up right now are going to stay, because everything’s been moving so quickly and we’re still not seeing any results on the Secretary of State’s site,” Josh Wronski, executive director of the Vermont Progressive Party, said on Wednesday

According to Covey, accuracy is more important than speed. 

“The Secretary of State’s mission is to provide a secure and accurate election,” Covey said. “The office will always default to a delay to ensure integrity and confidence of the results when they are certified.”

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Tiffany Tan

About Tiffany

Tiffany Tan is VTDigger's Southern Vermont reporter. Before joining VTDigger, she covered cops and courts for the Bennington Banner from 2018 to 2021. Prior to that, Tiffany worked for the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota and spent more than 10 years working for newspapers and television stations in Manila, Singapore and Beijing.

Email: [email protected]

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