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Court Rules Brooks Wins Recount By One Vote

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by Carla Occaso

MONTPELIER — Democratic senate candidates Francis Brooks and Ashley Hill finally found out who won the state primary election. It is Brooks by one vote.

Hill had petitioned the court for a recount after losing by four votes to Brooks in the August 9 election in which Brooks got 3,720 votes to Hill’s 3,716. The recount began August 22 under County Clerk Elizabeth Battey’s watchful eye. Battey organized a team of volunteers who, by August 23, had re-counted ballots and concluded the vote to be 3,710 for Brooks and 3,709 for Hill with four ballots set aside as “questionable.”

That left the matter up to the Honorable Timothy Tomasi in Superior Court. Tomasi arrived at his final decision August 26 after requesting a demonstration of how a couple of the questionable ballots would fare if they were again put through the voting machines. He also heard arguments from Attorney Daniel Richardson on behalf of Hill and from Brooks on behalf of himself. In addition, he took some time to consider the questionable ballots and how they should be treated.

Richardson’s core argument was that Tomasi should weigh the intent of the voter more heavily than anything else by analyzing the marks on the ballot and interpreting what the voter most likely wanted to select. By contrast, Brooks asked the judge to primarily consider only how the machines would have counted the ballots, and not take into consideration other factors.

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The four questionable ballots were each selected because the voter’s intent is a matter of interpretation. But the judge ruled there was enough information to conclude whether to count or dismiss each of the ballots. In the end, after the judge examined the questionable ballots, the process maintained Brooks’ victory, if only by one vote.

The Bridge caught up with both candidates after the proceedings.

“I am very happy with the decision and maybe now we are able to move in and start our campaign. My campaign hasn’t really started. I have been ill on July 3, and now I am moving on,” said Brooks after the hearing.

“This is really exciting. I know the numbers weren’t in my favor, but for me this is a total win. Nobody knew who I was six months ago,” Hill said.

Brooks is a former teacher and member of the Vermont House of Representatives from 1983 to 2008. Elected Sergeant At Arms in 2007, he served in that role until 2015.

Hill is deputy state’s attorney in Addison County. She is an attorney and adjunct faculty at Community College of Vermont.