Complaint filed after checking of ballot bag may have broken election procedures

The chair of the Rutland County Republican Committee on Thursday filed a complaint with the state ethics commission alleging that Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman violated state law by requesting and witnessing the opening of ballot bags following the Aug. 11 primary election.

According to the complaint submitted by Theresa Burke, Chesnut-Tangerman contacted the Middletown Springs Board of Civil Authority on Aug. 17 and requested that ballots be examined to identify a write-in vote for David Zuckerman, then a candidate for governor on the Progressive ballot.

state of Vermont

UNDER SCRUTINY: Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, P-Middletown Springs, says he was trying to follow election procedures when he had election officials open a ballot bag following the August primaries.

“Specifically, both the voted and unvoted ballot bags were opened to reveal one write-in vote for David Zuckerman for Governor on a Progressive Ballot; this was apparently part of an effort to prevent a requested recount by Progressive Candidate for Governor, Cris Ericson,” Burke wrote on the form filed with the Vermont State Ethics Commission.

She added that Chesnut-Tangerman, being a candidate for re-election, was prohibited by law from appearing at any polling place where ballots were being examined.

Secretary of State Jim Condos, Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy, R-Poultney, and House Ethics Commission Chair John Gannon, D-Wilmington, also received a copy of the complaint.

Burke told True North Reports in an email that the situation “has been a widespread topic of conversation in the Rutland-Bennington House district, and citizens are concerned when there hasn’t been an apparent concern over upholding election statutes or consequences when the rules are openly ignored.”

Chesnut-Tangerman, writing in a post published Sept. 1 on Front Porch Forum, said he had no nefarious intent but was seeking to find a single write-in vote for Zuckerman, because “when primary results were reported to the Secretary of State, it appears that no names of write-in candidates were recorded in Middletown Springs.”

Since Chesnut-Tangerman thought there should have been at least one write-in vote, he contacted the town clerk, the Board of Civil Authority, and Minority Leader McCoy for a list of the write-ins. After learning the write-in information wasn’t recorded, Chesnut-Tangerman requested an examination of ballots and stood present with three Board of Civil Authority members and the BCA chair as they opened the ballot bag and found the vote in question.

McCoy, responding after the fact, said the ballot bag should not be opened unless it is part of a recount conducted in Superior Court. Upon realizing their mistake, the BCA members resealed the bag and the vote count was left unchanged.

Burke wrote in the complaint that “Robin Chesnut-Tangerman is responsible for knowing the laws and abiding by them.” She also noted that the incident has voters questioning the “selective enforcement of the election law.”

The complaint provides public responses to the incident, including one by Ryan Decelle, of Middletown Springs, who has experience working on elections.

“Personal opinions aside, I worked for the Town of Wells as Assistant Town Clerk/Town Treasurer prior to opening my daycare and can tell you that opening up the ballots is not something that should be taken lightly and there are legal ramifications,” she wrote.

“If there is a valid reason for it, the State must give approval PRIOR to opening the ballots and then the Board of Civil Authority (BCA) can officially schedule a meeting with notice given to the public. This is information that every elected official should be well aware of and I don’t believe there would be any reason for Mr. Chestnut-Tangerman to even be present for this,” Decelle added.

The ethics commission’s executive director, Larry Novins, has been in contact with Burke since the filing.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Vote for Vermont/Orca Media and state of Vermont

2 thoughts on “Complaint filed after checking of ballot bag may have broken election procedures

  1. Mr. Chestnut-Tangerman is a bag egg!

    Abuse of power and typical Progs/Dems corruption and fraud. The fun is catching up to these people. Time for the law to handle these fakes! Thank you,

  2. And the fun begins,

    This voting cycle is nothing more than a way to stir the voter pot, we’ll have bags
    of ballots showing up everywhere seals broken, soiled, non legible signatures and
    the list goes on….

    Voting is one of the most precious things a “citizen ” can do, a requested absentee
    ballot is one thing but mass mailing is, well we all know a scam…..!!

    Go vote at the polls wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer and a pen, No ID required
    but it should be, they don’t have a clue who you are, just a name….pretty pathetic.

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