Vt. GOP fails to expand its numbers

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(Host) Although the formal results from Tuesday’s election won’t be available for a couple of days, it appears that the Vermont Republican Party did not succeed in its goal to expand the number of GOP members in the Legislature.

Party officials say high voter turnout and the early voting system worked against their efforts.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) During the 2008 session, there were 49 Republican members in the Vermont House and party officials expressed hope that the GOP could pick up at least 5 or 6 seats on Tuesday – but it appears that this didn’t happen.

There’s some uncertainty because recounts will be conducted in at least 4 House races where the Democratic candidate won by a small margin.

Even though the Party didn’t meet its goals, GOP chairman Rob Roper says he thinks Republicans did well to hold their own in a state that voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama:

(Roper) "I think it was the Obama tsunami…the turnout really hurt us we lost a lot of races that we very close within 100 votes so I think given what happened nationally we’re pretty happy to be where we are pretty much the status quo where we started."

Roper also blames the early voting system for his Party’s poor showing in some House races:

(Roper) "I think a lot of the people that voted early were new voters and their voting in October before any of the local House candidates really had chances to run races."

Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis doesn’t think the GOP position, that the Party did well to hold its own this year, is a very strong argument:

(Davis) "It’s a difficult argument to accept because the Republicans had emphasized legislative campaigns throughout the year for example they didn’t put up a candidate to run against Peter Welch for Congress they didn’t put up candidates for all the statewide offices one of the reasons they gave is they wanted to grow the number of Republicans in the Legislature and it turns out that’s not happened so they governor is going to be in a more difficult situation veto wise next year than he was in the last 2 years."

Some GOP officials want lawmakers to consider shortening the time frame for early voting from 30 days before an election to perhaps 15 days.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz doesn’t support that approach and says the 30 day window is needed for overseas ballots:

(Markowitz) "I don’t think it would make sense at all to shorten that time frame Vermonters like it – it makes it very convenient. You don’t find most of the voters who are still in Vermont starting to vote until a couple of weeks before the election."

The formal results of the election will be released next Tuesday – unofficial statistics indicate that despite strong interest in the presidential race, Vermont didn’t set a record for voter turnout this year.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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