Vermont voter turnout among highest in country

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(Host) According to the official election results released by the Secretary of State’s office, Vermont had one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country for last Tuesday’s election. More than 70 percent of the state’s registered voters cast their ballots in the presidential race.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The results from last week’s election have now been certified by the Secretary of State’s office and they show that 314,000 Vermonters voted in the election. That represents roughly 71 percent of the state’s registered voters.

But Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says the turnout rate is actually higher because many towns in the state have bloated checklists:

(Markowitz) “It means that there are people’s names on the checklist who may have moved and are registered somewhere else. So for a town – like using South Burlington as an example – where there’s a lot of people who move in and out of South Burlington, they may have thousands of names on their checklist of people who’ve moved. But because of a requirement of the federal law they can’t take their names off of the checklist unless they’re given permission from that voter or the voter has missed two elections.”

(Kinzel) Markowitz says she’ll be asking the Legislature to make a significant change to the state’s election process. She wants to move up the date for the state’s primary. Currently it takes place on the second Tuesday of September; this year the date was September 14, seven weeks before the general election.

Markowitz says her main motivation in moving the date of the primary, to perhaps June, is to give her office more time to distribute ballots to Vermonters serving overseas. She acknowledges that the change has other benefits as well:

(Markowitz) “We’re sitting with a vast minority of states having such a late primary. Most states have moved to a primary that’s in the spring of the election year. What it does is it gives the winner of the primary more opportunity to campaign and establish themselves as the party’s candidate.”

(Kinzel) The results also show that the Liberty Union Party will be considered a major political party in 2006. To receive this designation a candidate from a party must receive at least five percent of the vote in a statewide election. The party’s candidate for auditor, Jerry Levy, received six percent of the vote in that contest, thereby elevating Liberty Union to major party status.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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