The early voting numbers have been strong, and they took a huge leap over the weekend. On Friday, the Secretary of State’s office reported that 75,342 Vermonters had cast early ballots.
The total as of Monday afternoon? 89,411. That’s more than 14,000 ballots received in one day. Ballots can be returned until the polls close tonight; there are another 9300 early ballots outstanding, so the final early-voting total could approach 100,000. Which would represent nearly 30 percent of the total electorate.
(UPDATE: As of 9:30 this morning, returned ballots are up to 91,593. More than 100,000 people have requested ballots. We’re virtually certain to break the record.)
It would also break our all-time record of 94,663 early ballots cast in 2008.
Early voting is becoming the norm, not the exception. Which is logical; our tradition of holding elections on a single weekday is, frankly, ridiculous. You’d think it was designed to keep voters away.
Vermont has taken many positive steps to simplify voting.
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.
As of yesterday afternoon, nearly 20,000 Vermonters had submitted ballots for today’s primary election. The actual number, per Secretary of State Jim Condos: 19,904. With one full day to go. (More than 25,000 voters requested early ballots, so there’s room for the record total to grow.)
The old record was 18,210, set in the year 2010 when we had a red-hot five-way Democratic primary for governor. So, a healthy pre-primary turnout and one more indication that the concept of “Election Day” is becoming less relevant. (At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a list of primary turnout figures from 2000 through 2014, prepared by none other than Mr. Condos.)
So, let’s trot out the old abacus and see what we might be looking at for total turnout. To err on the side of caution, we’ll assume that no additional ballots arrive before the deadline, 5:00 p.m. today.
Us political observers haven’t taken sufficient notice of the fact that early voting is making the idea of “Election Day” ever more irrelevant. And that’s a good thing.
Well, except when a politician flip-flops on a key issue late in the game.
Vermont hasn’t gone as far as some jurisdictions in abandoning the calendrical imperative as a limit to voting rights. Oregon’s elections are entirely conducted by mail, with each registered voter automatically receiving a ballot. We don’t do that, but at least we make ballots freely available either by mail or in person at your town clerk’s office for more than a month before election day.
Although the service is underpublicized (Jim Condos doesn’t have an advertising budget), more and more Vermonters are taking advantage. According to VTDigger, roughly 17 percent of ballots for the “August 9” primary will be returned in person or by mail before the polls open.
This is inconvenient for pollsters and pundits and for politicians crafting last-minute strategery, but it’s a very good thing if it enables more people to vote.
Matt Dunne, pre-Friday:
Dunne says the state can’t meet its 90 percent renewable energy goal by 2050 unless it encourages the development of large-scale wind and solar projects.
Dunne is a proponent of large-scale renewable wind and solar projects.
That’s from VTDigger’s guide to the primary candidates. and it’s completely at odds with the Matt Dunne who came out against ridgeline wind on Friday.
“We must battle climate change and continue down the path to 90% renewable energy by 2015. …But we must do this in a Vermont way.
… “Large-scale ridgeline wind projects should only take place with the approval of the towns where the projects are located.
… “Vermont’s renewable energy future is largely in solar and small-scale hydro.”
In short, Matt Dunne has executed a last-minute flip-flop on one of the key issues in Vermont politics. And that’s why a well-connected liberal insider told me today that “No one will ever trust him again.”
Removing barriers to voter participation: it’s an issue that’s long overdue for some serious attention. Vermont’s new law, allowing same-day voter registration, is a nice start.
What else? Well, there’s no good reason other than tradition to hold elections on Tuesdays. Especially in Vermont, where polling places close at 7 p.m. That’s not much time for working folk to get to the polls.
But if you want to keep your Tuesday voting because Grandfather’s Light Bulb, then I’d suggest adoption of Hillary Clinton’s proposal for at least 20 days of early voting. That would give everyone a full opportunity to participate. Early voting has allowed many more to exercise their right when it’s been adopted.
“This is, I think, a moment when we should be expanding the franchise,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said in an interview. “What we see in state after state is this effort by conservatives to restrict the right to vote.”
Of course, the new law is being greeted with whining and carping from Vermonters with no apparent interest in getting more people to vote. Accounts of the bill becoming law were lightly sprinkled with comments from town clerks alleging that we’re opening the door to voter fraud.
Ah, voter fraud, favored chimera of conservatives. The Bush Administration bent its Justice Department to the task of rooting out voter fraud. And after eight full years of effort, they found a mere handful of cases. In a time when hundreds of millions of ballots were cast.