|VERMONT SECRETARY OF STATE - Jim Condos|
|State of Vermont
Office of the
Secretary of State
Volume 4 Number 11
HAUNTED BY THE GHOSTS OF ELECTIONS PAST
The Museum of Vermont Elections was fascinating, the tour guide clearly knowledgeable (see "Ghosts of Elections Past" elsewhere in this issue). I found myself, however, falling further and further behind, until the guide's voice was a distant echo, my tour group lost to sight. As I looked around I noted a dark passage marked, The Age of Majority. Broken cobwebs and dusty footprints indicated recent activity after long neglect. Indeed, what sounded like distant shouting echoed down the passage. I entered, emerging into a shadow-cast room where a scrum of what appeared to be politicians wrestled back and forth yelling things like "plurality," "constitutional requirement," and other phrases I cannot repeat in a family publication.
How did we get to this state? I sidled along the wall, away from the crowd, peering into old exhibit cases.
A particularly cluttered case was marked "U.S. House." Under "1791" was a card noting that Vermont's U.S. Representatives (yes, we had more than one) had to receive a majority in order to be elected. If no one received a majority there would be a second election among the top three finishers, with a plurality sufficient for victory (if a tie resulted, the district clerk would "openly & publickly. . .determine said election by lot.") Crowded next to this exhibit were cards marked "1792," which expanded the run-off election to the top four finishers, and "1794," opening the run-off to any candidate.
The remainder of the case was a jumble. "1796" eliminated the run-off, requiring instead a majority winner. "1812" allowed election by plurality. "1818" reverted to the majority requirement, regardless of the number of elections it took. "1832" explained that if no majority winner emerged after two ballotings, the third election would be by plurality. "1848" allowed for plurality election if a second vote was necessary. The last card, marked "1915," eliminated the majority requirement altogether.
By now I had reached the next wall, which
I now arrived at the third wall, marked "State Offices." Here majority still ruled, at least for governor, lieutenant governor and treasurer. I was too close to the fray, however, and slipped out of the exhibit hall.
Why did the Vermont's founders support majority elections? Unfortunately there are no minutes from the early constitutional conventions. The 1918 primary may suggest an answer. The primary, first used in 1916, allowed nomination by plurality and in 1918 Percival Clement captured the Republican gubernatorial nomination with just 37% of the vote. Since the Republican nomination was tantamount to election, Clement became governor with 67% of the vote. Yet he had twice bolted the party (1902 and 1906) and held positions at variance with the Party. Clement, for example, opposed women suffrage and as governor successfully frustrated the Republican majority's efforts to have Vermont ratify the 19th Amendment.
Then why not keep the majority requirement for all races? Well, getting to a majority can be messy as the 1830 congressional race in Vermont's Fourth District demonstrated. In that year it took the District's voters eleven tries to reach a majority, with the election stretching from September 1830 to June 4, 1832 (and this for a two-year term).
Throughout Vermont's 225 years we have debated the relative merits of majority versus plurality. Evidence of that debate can be found in our state and municipal archives, the real museums of Vermont elections.
Tip of the Month
We send ours out to a local printing company to have them cut into eight sections of 100 sheets, glued and bound to make note pads for the office.
We have 21 plastic wrapped bundles of ballots go out and will get back 420 note pads for a cost of $ 140.00. We then donate them to local daycare’s and schools. Any other suggestions?
If you have a tip that you would like to share in a future Opinions newsletter please send it to:
Dencie L. Mitchell, Grand Isle Town Clerk
Or email it to her firstname.lastname@example.org
November 2: Last day for the board of civil authority to designate pairs of justices of the peace, assuring political balance in each pair, to deliver early or early or absentee ballots to ill and physically disabled voters (not later than three days before the election). 17 V.S.A. § 2538(a).
November 4: Voters, family members, authorized persons, or health care providers may request early or absentee ballots until 5:00 p.m. or the closing of the town clerk's office. 17 V.S.A. § 2531(a).
Clerks must make a list of early or absentee voters available upon request in their offices. 17 V.S.A. § 2534.
The presiding officer of each polling place must also post a copy of the warning and notice, sample ballots and the current checklist in a conspicuous place in each polling place before the polls open on election day. 17 V.S.A. § 2523(a).
The presiding officer shall also ensure that signs informing voters of procedures for depositing ballots are placed on or near the ballot boxes before the polls open on election day. 17 V.S.A. § 2523(b).
November 5: GENERAL ELECTION DAY
Clerks must make a copy of all early or absentee voters available at their office and in each polling place as soon as it opens. 17 V.S.A. § 2534.
November 7: Within 48 hours of the close of polls, the town clerk shall deliver one certified copy of the official return of vote to the secretary of state,
representative district clerk, senatorial district clerk and county clerk. 17 V.S.A. § 2588.
PLEASE OVERNIGHT YOUR OFFICIAL RETURNS (ORV) TO THE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE, 26 Terrace Street, Montpelier, VT 05609-1101.
November 12: At 10:00 a.m. all canvassing committees (statewide, county, senatorial, and representative) must meet to tally returns. 17 V.S.A. § 2592(g) and (h). The committee shall prepare certificates of election and send or deliver these to the candidates elected, except the statewide committee shall prepare the certificates but not sign them. Each canvassing committee shall also file a canvassing report of its findings with the Secretary of State. 17 V.S.A. § 2592 (m).
November 15: Last day for a losing candidate to request a recount (within 10 days after the election). 17 V.S.A. § 2602(b).
November 20: Last day that a legal voter may contest the results of the general election (within 15 days after the election). 17 V.S.A. § 2603(c).
December 1: Last day to pay property taxes in towns that voted to collect interest on overdue taxes. 32 V.S.A. § 5136(a)
December 5: Last day for U.S. Congressional candidates to file FEC 30-day post-general reports (Oct. 20-Nov. 28), 2 U.S.C. ' 434(a)(2).
December 14: Last day for Listers to add omitted inventory to tax roles. 32 V.S.A. § 4086
December 24: (70 days before Town Meeting) First day to warn the first public hearing if a charter adoption, amendment or repeal is to be voted on at Town Meeting. 17 V.S.A. § 2641(a), 2645(a)
December 30: Last day for Listers to correct real or personal estate omission or obvious error in grand list, with approval of Selectboard. 32 V.S.A. § 4261
December 31: Town fiscal year ends, unless voted otherwise. 24 V.S.A. § 1683(c).
December 16: Deadline for filing forty-day post election campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State by candidates for statewide office, state senator, state representative, political committees, and political parties who have expended or received $500.00 or more. Also deadline for filing forty-day post election campaign finance reports by county office candidates who have made expenditures or received contributions of $500.00 or more. County candidates shall file with the county clerk with whom his or her nomination papers were filed. Copies of these reports must be forwarded by the county clerks to the secretary of state within five days of receipt. 17 V.S.A. ' 2821(c).
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