Republican Vermont gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne is not requesting a recount of last week's election results, but he is leaving open the possibility of asking the legislature to elect him in January. But considering party makeup in Montpelier, that’s considered a long shot — and would go against tradition in the Green Mountain State.
On Wednesday, the Vermont Secretary of State released the results of the official canvass of votes. Governor Peter Shumlin received 46.4 percent to Scott Milne’s 45.1 percent in the race for governor. Five other candidates and write-ins received an aggregate 8.6 percent.
Scott Milne says he won’t ask for a recount with Shumlin leading by 2,434 votes. “We would have needed to see that final tally be arguably single digits or somewhere around or under a hundred votes for a recount to make sense. Even with a recount and a change with us getting a plurality it’s still going to be unfathomable that somebody would get over 50 percent. So it’s going to need to be decided according to Vermont’s Constitution by the legislature no matter what.”
Under the Vermont constitution, if candidates for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer do not receive 50 percent, the legislature decides the election by secret ballot when it convenes in January.
Traditionally, according Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis, when there have been plurality but not majority winners, the second-place candidate has conceded once the official canvass is complete. But Milne is not conceding. “My guess is if Milne does not concede and he says legislators may vote for him if they wish, he’ll get about the same number of votes in January in the legislature as there are Republican members in the legislature. He’ll get somewhere around 60 or 65 votes out of 180 cast.”
Vermont Digger Political Columnist Jon Margolis says it doesn’t appear that Milne has a strategy for a legislative vote. “If he decides to go forward then presumably he’ll have to try to convince legislators, I suppose, it will be on the argument that vote the way your district voted not the way the whole state voted. Each of those arguments is just as strong as the other. And perhaps neither of them is as strong as the argument that the legislators should vote as they see fit.”
Some Republicans have suggested if Milne asks lawmakers to vote based on the results of their individual districts he might have a chance to win. University of Vermont Professor of Political Science Garrison Nelson says Milne doesn’t have a chance. “But on the other hand there may be some legislators who are less than fond of Governor Shumlin that might want to cast a protest vote, Democratic legislators that is, against the governor. Do they want to embarrass him and elect Scott Milne? Or will they go through the pro forma exercise?”
For his part, Milne says he has not reached out to legislators — yet. “I have talked to legislators that have called me. But I won’t be lobbying any legislators at least until we meet over the next week or so and talk formally about what we’re going to do as we move forward. I agree that Peter Shumlin has more votes than I do. There’s a lot of voters that voted for change and I want to move forward in a way that’s not going to leave those people feeling disenfranchised.”
The Vermont Secretary of State’s office reports turnout for the Vermont election was 45 percent with just over 196,000 voters casting ballots.