Bill To Move Primary To Go Before House

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(Host) A bill that would move Vermont’s primary election to an earlier date will go before the full House for a vote next week. 

Last session, the Senate passed the bill, which would move the primary from September 14th to August 24th.  The bill would also put the state in compliance with new federal election rules, which require at least 45 days between the primary and general elections.

That’s intended to give Americans living overseas – including troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan – an opportunity to vote.

House Government Operations Committee Chairwoman Donna Sweaney says her committee will vote on the measure Friday.

(Sweaney) "We have a big plate and a lot of stuff on it to get to, and so, that said, the work that the committee has done in talking to 17 people, witnesses, we polled all the town clerks.  And for the most part, everyone, we’re all looking at what is the best for our overseas voters?  And, keeping in mind the 1500 people who are going overseas to defend us for the right to vote."

(Host) The issue has been contentious. Democrats, for the most part, support the move.

Republicans say the earlier date is motivated by this year’s competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary.  

Representative Pat McDonald from Berlin says everyone wants to make sure overseas voters aren’t disenfranchised. But she worries the bill might hurt overall voter turnout.

(McDonald) "I think some of the discussion in the committee, which has not been political from a large P perspective, but perhaps a small p in the fact that we are in the middle of a campaign this year, but also you look at the fact that about 11 to 12-percent of registered voters vote now in the primary, and if we move it back, we’re having discussions about vacations, and what does that mean, would we get even less participation?"

(Host) Vermont has the option of applying for a waiver from the federal government for a one-year exemption.  But the secretary of state’s office says it’s unlikely that Vermont would qualify for such an extension.

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