Vermont state law permits citizens to review ballots after they have been counted and certified. Transparency like this promotes trust in the electoral process. During the summer of 2017, the Castleton Polling Institute examined the ballots from Rutland City’s 2017 Town Meeting Day election (March 7, 2017), building a database of actual votes of Rutland city residents. That database allows us to test the patterns of voting in Rutland, to understand the relationships between support for mayoral candidates and other options, such as the city budget and choices for the Board of Aldermen, examined in an earlier blog post.
When Castleton students reviewed the ballots, they made judgements on the voters’ intents and entered the results into a database. While the results from the Castleton assessment do not perfectly mirror those of the official results, they are very close. We do not suggest that our results are more precise than the results provided by Rutland City to the Secretary of State; but our results are the best representation of the actual vote that we could manage.
As Table 1 clearly shows, the difference in counts was extremely small, never totaling more than a tenth of one percent. It appears that Castleton, using its best estimate of voter intent, reduced the number of spoiled ballots slightly, and reallocated a few other votes, but nothing to make a meaningful difference. Another pass at the data may have yielded results more in line with the official results, but for the purposes of our analysis—and given the tendency for human error in any counting process that involves some interpretation—we are comfortable with the differences.
If anything, this should provide some support for confidence in the vote counting process in Rutland City.
[The Polling Institute is grateful to the City of Rutland for the opportunity to review the ballots.]