Early voting on fast pace in Vermont

We’re hearing reports from various states that a whole lot of people are voting early. And the evidence, with a couple of exceptions, is that the trend favors the Democrats. In key state after key state, they are outperforming President Obama’s 2012 pace while Donald Trump is lagging behind Mitt Romney’s performance.

And how are things in Vermont? you may ask.

We’re way ahead of 2014, and on pace to threaten our record for early voting, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

As of Friday afternoon, the state had received more than 51,000 requests for early ballots, and are getting an average of 2,000 per day.  Absentee requests have already exceeded the 2014 total — which was lower than 2012 because so many voters were disaffected by the Shumlin/Milne race. (2014 total turnout 196,000; in 2012, it was over 301,000.)

As of midafternoon Thursday, voters had returned nearly 25,000 ballots. That’s getting close to 2014’s total — and we still have more than two weeks until Election Day.

We have some way to go to exceed 2012’s early voting total of 76,263, but we’re on pace to get awfully close if we don’t break the record.

Reading anything partisan into those numbers is tough because voters don’t declare party affiliation. In states where voters can register as Republicans or Democrats (or Greens or Libertarians or whatever), we can at least tell how many members of each party have submitted early ballots.

If I may indulge in a bit of speculation, this is likely to be good news for Vermont Democrats. I doubt that most Republicans are much excited by their presidential candidate*. And from all appearances, the pre-convention bad blood between Clinton and Sanders camps seems to have been left behind. Bernie’s certainly doing his best for Democrats, in Vermont and nationwide.

*They are relatively excited by their gubernatorial candidate, but so are Democrats; and the VTGOP’s statewide ticket is otherwise a wasteland.

Early voting has become easier to accomplish in recent years. Secretary of State Jim Condos has done much to improve access to — and security of — Vermont elections. Through the Secretary of State’s website, people can register to vote, see a sample ballot, request an early ballot, find information on local clerk’s offices and polling places, and update addresses and other information. Early ballots can also be obtained by mail or in person at any town clerk’s office.

“All of this is designed to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Condos says. As for the apparent rise in early voting, “Improved access allows Vermonters to become more aware and focus on the election.

“Also,” he adds, “it helps to have competitive races.”

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