Erhard Mahnke chittenden-central recount

Chittenden County Clerk Anne Williams points to the two vote difference between Erhard Mahnke and Martine Gulick for the third Chittenden-Central State Senate slot that was made official Aug. 17.


ESSEX — A two-vote difference has sparked a recount for the Democratic nomination in the Chittenden-Central State Senate race. The recount will be held at 9 a.m. on Aug. 19.

The recount was petitioned by candidate Erhard Mahnke, who lost by two votes to candidate Martine Gulick. 

The law states a 2% threshold is required for a recount to be granted and the margin between Gulick’s 3,949 votes and Mahnke’s 3,947 votes is .0002718, entitling Mahnke to a recount. 

Never in Chittenden County Clerk Anne Williams’ time has an election been overturned by a recount, she told the Reporter.

The Chittenden-Central district — which includes all of Winooski and Essex Junction, and parts of Essex Town, Colchester and Burlington — is a three-member district, so the top three Democrats from the primary move on to the general election in November. 

The first two slots were won by Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Burlington) with 5,710 votes and Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky (P/D-Essex) with 5,140. The recount will decide the winner of the third slot. 

“The merit of the recount is really to verify the data from the towns,” Williams said. “I've been the clerk here for 12 years, and I've done the recounts for 14 years and I've never seen a recount overturn the election.”

Mahnke submitted the petition to the Vermont Supreme Court on Aug. 11, six days before the votes were officialized.

To overturn the election, the recount committee would need to find three or more ballots in Mahnke’s favor that overturn what the canvassing committee determined to be the official results. 

In a hearing held at 2 p.m. Aug. 17, the candidates and their respective attorneys met to discuss the proceedings of the recount. ​​Superior Judge Samuel Hoar, Jr. ruled the recount will focus solely on the results between Mahnke and Gulick.

Tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 19, volunteers serving on the recount committee will gather in a conference room on the first floor of the Chittenden Superior Court. The recount committee is made up of 36 volunteers who were nominated by the Democratic candidates as requested by the judge’s order.

The order asked each candidate on the ballot to submit at least 10 nominees for individuals to serve on the recount committee. The final list, submitted to the judge by Williams on Aug. 17, tallied four volunteers from Vyhovsky, 14 from Gulick and 18 from Mahnke.

Williams has set the room up with four volunteers to a table where they will sift through the ballots.

“We’ll open up the entire bag for the town and then they sort out Progressive and Republican so that we're only focusing on the Democratic race,” Williams said.

After separating the Democratic ballots from the other two parties the volunteers remove all the “clearly voted” ballots to be read by the tabulator. These ballots hold no question about voter intent because they show clearly marked circles for the candidate.

“It's the [ballots] where voter intent, they think, might not be read by the tabulator, those they will put into a hand count and they'll hand count those particular [ballots],” Williams said.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Williams estimated the recount would take up to two days.

“All right, folks, we're crossing our fingers that we can get this done on Friday but we'll see,” Judge Hoar said as he ended the session.

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