(Host) Early voting for November’s General Election is under way.
In 2004, a fifth of Vermont’s voters chose to cast their ballot using this system.
As a result, the state’s political parties are starting to use new strategies.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) According to Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, Vermont has one of the most lenient early voting laws in the country.
Any registered voter can request a ballot by mail within 30 days of an election or the individual can go to their local town clerk’s office during this time period to vote in person.
Markowitz says there’s no doubt that this early voting system has boosted voter turnout:
(Markowitz) “Vermonters really like having options. A lot of Vermonters chose to vote earlier by mail and I have to say our local officials really like it too. It makes election day go an awful lot smoother when they have fewer people on line and can at their leisure process the ballots that have come in.”
(Kinzel) Republican Party chairman Jim Barnett says the early voting system is a critical part of the GOP’s get out the vote strategy for the election.
If a voter requests an early ballot, it’s a matter of public record. Barnett says GOP volunteers visit town clerks’ offices to get the names of individuals requesting an early ballot.
The GOP then sends the person some literature and follows up with a phone call:
(Barnett) “There’s example after example of races not only here in Vermont but also all around the country that it could be said that the outcome was determined by a successful get out the vote effort as it pertains to absentee and early balloting.”
(Kinzel) Jon Copans is the director of the Vermont Democratic Party. He says his organization is urging its supporters to use the early ballot system:
(Copans) “Anybody can vote anytime between October 10th and November 7th. So we want to use every opportunity we can to talk to our supporters and to get them to vote. And we don’t want to wait until November 6th, the day before the election to do that. Early voting allows us to start that conversation much sooner in the campaign cycle.”
(Kinzel) The Vermont Progressive Party isn’t organizing a centralized system to keep track of early ballot requests.
Director Marrisa Caldwell says the Party’s legislative candidates are spreading the word as they campaign door to door:
(Caldwell) “They’re out knocking on doors and they definitely have a better feel for what’s going on in their districts than anyone at a central location could. We offer them support in any way that we can but it definitely is something that happens locally through the campaigns.”
(Kinzel) Secretary of State Markowitz cautions voters that once they cast their early ballot they can’t change their mind and request another one if a dramatic development occurs in a particular campaign.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier