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Ballots recounted in House 64th race

November 17, 2018

KENT — Election workers fed the 1,542nd ballot through the tabulator Friday afternoon to a round of applause from a dozen members of the public curious about the outcome of the late recount for the state House District 64 race.

Leila Erskine, Kent’s election moderator, cut the tape off the machine — which was nearly twice as long as she is — and faced the audience, seated behind a red ribbon in the community room at Kent Town Hall.

“Everyone ready?” she asked before going on to read almost identical numbers to those that came out for Republican Brian Ohler and Democrat Maria Horn last week when Horn had won the seat with a slim margin.

Ohler, the one-term incumbent, had conceded a few hours after that on Nov. 7, and though there had been talks of a recount locally, the difference wasn’t within the 0.5 percent that triggers an automatic recount under state statute.

That is, until two towns discovered they had made a mistake and reported updated numbers to the state Tuesday night, bringing the difference to 51 votes and triggering the recount early Wednesday.

The state notified all of the town clerks in the nine towns that make up the 64th district — Kent, Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon and Torrington — that they would have to schedule recounts to meet the new Friday deadline.

As of 6:20 p.m. Friday, the results were still unofficial but Horn’s total had remained unchanged at 5,876, while Ohler had lost some and now had 5,816 votes, according to the Secretary of the State’s website.

Those affiliated with the campaigns and the Secretary of the State’s Office are unsure what happened in North Canaan and Norfolk, especially because it was discovered several days after towns are required to submit their numbers to the state.

Karen Chase, one of Kent’s registrars, recalled being surprised by the call first thing Wednesday morning.

“It started ringing just as my alarm should have been going off,” Chase said, adding it was especially a surprise because the state had said a recount wasn’t needed after the election.

It was the first recount Chase had been involved in during her five years as registrar and she said her former colleague, who had been there much longer, hadn’t had one in town either.

“It was a learning experience,” she said.

The recount wasn’t the only new thing. Kent went through three machines on election night because they kept jamming and there was a problem with the ink in the second machine. The machines were refurbished Thursday in preparation for Friday’s recount, but it still kept jamming. Chase said the company is coming back on Monday because it shouldn’t be happening.

“If anything could have happened, it happened,” she said.

Though not the highest turnout percentage, Chase said they had the most voters come out.

“We had a record number of people register and a record number of people turnout,” she said. “Everyone was motivated to come out to vote, which is great. That’s what I like to see.”

Neither candidate could be reached Friday evening about the recount but on Thursday, Horn said there had been little change by that point with about 45 percent of the votes recounted and she expected the outcome would be the same.

While the recount was unexpected, she said “it’s an important exercise.”

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