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1 vote to rule them all? Just 1 vote currently decides race for Barre town supervisor

White voting booths with the American flag on them and the word "Vote" underneath it. Hanging from each booth, there are pamphlets that read "Look here. Voter Instructions and regulations."
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The margin of victory is so slim, an automatic recount has been triggered.

One is a powerful number when it comes to the democratic process.

One person making one mark in one box in one election race can tip the scales to impact an entire population.

As things stand, one vote means that incumbent and Republican Sean P. Pogue just pips the win over Conservative Scott A. Burnside in the race for Barre town supervisor.

Such a small margin of victory triggers an automatic recount which will start Thursday, according to the Orleans County Board of Elections.

Barre is a small town with a population of around 2,000 people. And with around 600 or so total votes cast, a hand recount will likely be completed quickly. But the final result may not be called until next Tuesday to allow for any outstanding absentee ballots to arrive in the mail.

It’s a hotly contested race due to two renewable energy projects slated for the area according to Tom Rivers, editor of the Orleans Hub.

"My personal opinion is, if you are in a high profile position in a small town with hot issues - in Barre, you have the wind turbine project and also a 2,000 acre solar - so if you're out front and center, I think you have a very short shelf life," Rivers said.

"Whether you do everything right or everything wrong, it's just hard to stay in the top seat with so much scrutiny and so much second guessing."

Heritage Wind is the name of the turbine project developed by Apex Clean Energy, a company from Virginia. It comprises 33 turbines, each 680ft in height. Not all turbines are yet in place according to Rivers, and the process has been dragging on for years - driving a wedge between those selling land to the project, and those who are not.

The solar project - developed by Pennsylvania-based company Orleans Solar LLC - has introduced similar pressures and a new level of scrutiny for the small town’s elected officials.

"Typically, the Barre town supervisor, it was a very kind of low key job," Rivers said. "They have a town park with some little league fields. And, you know, you try to keep the roads plowed and taken care of. That was about the job. And then all of a sudden, you got two projects that are over $200 million and you have to try to provide some oversight on that."

The race between Pogue and Burnside was a rematch of the Republican Primary held in June, with Pogue comfortably winning with 58% of the vote. But returning with the endorsement of the Conservatives, Burnside has given the incumbent a run for his money.

"It looks like, in Barre, they would like to try someone else," Rivers said.

Perhaps just one vote will decide. We’ll find out after the recount.

WBFO left messages for Pogue to get his perspective on this story and is yet to hear back. We also tried to contact Burnside via the Orleans County Conservatives, and have not yet received a response.

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