Senate weighs move to August primaries

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(Host) Vermont has one of the shortest periods of time between its primary election and the general election of any state in the country.

This has led many candidates to complain that there isn’t enough time to run an effective campaign against an incumbent.

That would change under legislation scheduled to be considered in the Vermont Senate this afternoon.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Vermont holds its primary election for legislative and statewide races on the second Tuesday in September.  This leaves candidates roughly eight weeks to campaign before the general election in early November.

The Senate bill moves the primary date to the 4th Tuesday in August – a change that gives candidates several additional weeks.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says she’s supported this kind of change for many years because it gives her office more time to provide ballots to overseas voters.

Markowitz also thinks that the general election campaign has been compressed with the popularity of early voting – a process that allows people to cast a ballot within 30 days of an election:

(Markowitz) "There’s a lot of conversation about what it will do for the political process and one thing that I have observed over the years is that having just really two weeks between the primary and when voting starts in Vermont often makes things pretty rushed at the end there."

(Kinzel) Republican Party chairman Rob Roper thinks the plan has positives and negatives. He likes the idea of having candidates commit to races on an earlier timetable:

(Roper) "People tend to procrastinate and put off getting into a race late and then they really don’t have the time to go out and do the campaigning and organization building that they need to do to run an effective race."

(Kinzel) But Roper also thinks that the Democrats are backing this bill because their party faces a crowded gubernatorial primary in 2010:

(Roper) "I’m sure a lot of it is being driven by politics because for the first time in a long time you’re going to have a lot of Democrats running for Governor. It looks like they’re going to want to have the primary resolved early so I’m a little cynical about that reason for bringing it to the forefront."

(Kinzel) Markowitz, who’s one of the candidates considering a run for governor next year, says that Roper’s analysis is off base.

(Markowitz) "There certainly are politics around it. It’s obviously much too early to know who’s going to be running for any statewide office for the 2010 election, but our office has been bringing this to the legislature for 10 years so it’s nothing new coming from us."

(Kinzel) Progressive Party Executive Director Morgan Daybell says his party hasn’t taken a formal position on the bill, but Daybell says he thinks the legislation represents a positive change in Vermont’s election system.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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