Secretary of State’s office says voter registrations are up

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(Host) Today is the last day for Vermonters to register if they want to vote in next week’s presidential primaries.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, the Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has generated a lot of interest and enthusiasm.

(Sneyd) With competitive presidential races this year, many states have been overwhelmed with voter interest – requests to register, or to vote early, and the need to print extra ballots.

Now, some of that is happening in Vermont, too. But Deputy Secretary of State Bill Dalton says it’s difficult to say whether Vermont ultimately will follow the national trends.

(Dalton) “The only trend in terms of the presidential primary is that there seems to be a lot of press about it. But there’s no way for us to have any real knowledge or understanding about who, in fact, or the numbers of folks that will go to the polls.”

(Sneyd) Unlike in most states, Vermont elections are run completely by the towns, not by counties or the state. So it’s a little more challenging to track trends.

Dalton says it is clear that Vermonters are tuned in to the presidential race. There have been reports in various parts of the state that registration is up. And extra ballots were ordered up, just in case.

The campaigns are also doing everything they can to generate excitement in the races. Barack Obama’s supporters unveiled a “Women for Obama” organization. Sarah Muyskens spoke about the group on a conference call.

(Muyskens) “I just feel very strongly that this election is about the future of America. And I really think we need to look to the young people that are coming into this campaign. And believe that he’s going to bring new people to the political process. And it’s going to make a big difference in what the legislation that comes out of Washington does for all of us.”

(Sneyd) Senator Clinton’s campaign has also been actively organizing. Clinton just opened a second Vermont office, in Rutland. She also has an office in Burlington.

House Speaker Gaye Symington co-chairs Clinton’s Vermont operation. And she says the competitive contest has been good for politics.

(Symington) “I think it’s great, the level of just enthusiasm and engagement. We all thought we were going to be irrelevant. And it’s great to have the Vermont primary matter. I’ve got a freshman in college who’s voting absentee in a primary election. I mean, people are paying attention.”

(Sneyd) There’s a little more time to get those absentee ballots in. They either have to be mailed to the town clerk’s office, or dropped off, by the close of business on Monday. Or they can be taken to the polls on Tuesday.

But you have to be registered. And that deadline is 5 this afternoon.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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