Attorney General's office issues opinion in Ainsworth vs. Buxton election

by Rob Roper

Rep. David Ainsworth (R-Royalton)

Assistant Attorney General Michael McShane delivered the findings to the legislature from the office’s investigation into questionable votes in the Windsor-Orange 1 House race that was decided by one vote.

Incumbent Republican David Ainsworth, who lost the race, requested the investigation based on allegations that (1) voters living outside the district voted in the election, (2) provisional ballots were not used by the towns as required by Vermont law, and (3) ballots were lost or misplaced in the town of Tunbridge between the

election night count and the recount.

In regard to the first allegation, McShane went through the statuted regarding the establishment of voter checklists, and stated, “Checklists are presumed to be conclusive, and only under limited circumstance may the eligibility of a person on a checklist be challenged on Election Day; 17 VSA Section 2149. Residence is not among the issues that may be used to challenge a voter on Election Day. (Emphasis added).

In regard to the second allegation, the AG’s office stated that the use of provisional ballots was not legally necessary in the cases of the voters cited, provisional ballots being required only in cases where voter information is incomplete. “None of the four voters mentioned above requested a provisional ballot. All filled out Voter Affirmation Forms. All took the voters oath. All listed a specific address within the Town of Royalton as their principal dwelling place and affirmed under penalty of perjury that the information provided was accurate.”

In regard to the allegation that ballots went missing, the conclusion from testimony of the Town Clerks indicate that the seals on the bags holding the ballots were never broken, and no tampering occurred.

The Ainsworth vs. Buxton case raises many questions about who really a resident of a voting district or, for that matter, the state of Vermont. If someone votes in an election who is not a legal resident of that district, that person is eliminating the vote of someone who is a legal resident and, therefore, violating the civil rights of that legal resident.

Assistant Attorney General Mike McShane is scheduled to testify about the Ainsworth Buxton election on Wednesday, January 19th before the House Government Operations Committee.