By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
Town clerks in the Champlain Islands region say there is considerable interest in early voting for the Aug. 11 Vermont Primary election.
The extra attention comes as there are few contests on the lower half of the ballot next month, but some interesting and muchly contested races among the top seats. Winners in the primary will advance to the General Election in November.
Secretary of State Jim Condos said statewide there had been 74,907 requests for early ballots as of 9 a.m. Monday. He said if this keep up over the next month, Vermont could see a record turnout.
He said the state sent postcards to all registered voters within Vermont offering early voting ballots to those that returned half of the post cards.
Condos said that is about nine times as many as were sought at the same time in 2016 – the last time there also was a presidential race. Condos said 7,966 had been requested in 2016.
Two years ago 3,560 had been sought during a non-presidential year, he said.
He said voters seeking an early ballot will actually get ballots for three political parties. There will be one for Democrats, Republicans and Progressives. He said the ballot of only one party can be filled out and placed in the proper envelope. The two unused ballots will go into a separate envelope and all need to be returned, Condos said.
Failure to return all three ballots may negate the one that is filled out, Condos explained in a press briefing on Monday afternoon.
Condos said the extra push for advanced voting is designed to reduce the threat of COVID-19 for those working at or going to polling places on Aug. 11.
South Hero has seen more than 300 requests for an early ballot this year so far, Town Clerk and Treasurer Janet Yates said Tuesday afternoon. That compares to 137 for the entire campaign period four years ago, she said.
South Hero had 771 voters through early or in-person balloting four years ago – the last presidential race, Yates said.
She said voting will be easy through the post cards mailed to each voter offering ballots.
“I think it is great,” she said.
South Hero residents, like all municipalities, will still allow people to vote in person on Aug. 11, she said. Voting in person will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town office.
“We are taking all the (safety) precautions,” she said.
Town officials in Milton also are seeing an incredible response.
“It’s been nuts since last Monday,” Town Clerk Sheryl Prince told The Islander. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
For just over a week, Milton had received 1,299 requests, she said on Tuesday.
“And I have a stack right here that have not been entered, probably 40-50. It has been a bit overwhelming.”
She said the total includes 195 requests for West Milton which is part of a legislative district covering the Champlain Islands.
By comparison the August 2016 primary had 1,701 total voters in Milton, including 319 by absentee, Price said.
North Hero has seen 168 requests for early ballots from among the 793 voters on the checklist, Town Clerk and Treasurer Corinn Julow reported on Tuesday.
She said some requests still needed to be entered.
Julow said by comparison 69 early ballots were requested four years ago and just 21 two years ago – a non-presidential year.
Alburgh also is seeing considerable interest with more than 230 requests, according to Town Clerk and Treasurer Donna Bohannon.
She agreed that the recent push for early voting through the post cards from the state is going to increase participation.
THE RACE IS ON
The race for Governor has Republican incumbent Phil Scott challenged by Brookfield lawyer John Klar and three other somewhat lesser known candidates: Doug Cavett of Milton, Bernard Peters of Irasburg and Emily Peyton of Putney.
Running for the Democrats are Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman of Hinesburg, former Education Secretary Rebecca Holcomb of Norwich and Bennington lawyer Pat Winburn. Also filing is Ralph “Carcajou” Corbo of Wallingford, who also is running against U.S. Rep. Peter Welch of Norwich for the party’s nod for the Congressional seat.
On the Republican side for the U.S House, Miriam Berry of Essex, Jimmy Rodriguez of Montpelier, Justin Tuthill of Pomfret and Anya Tynio of Charleston all have filed to be on the ballot.
For the Progressive Party, both Chris Brimmer of Ryegate and perennial candidate Cris Ericson of Chester have filed for the U.S. House. It is one of seven major offices Ericson has filed for this year. She also is running for Governor, Lt. Governor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, Attorney General and Auditor of Accounts.
The race for Lt. Governor has picked up a little steam since the legislature adjourned -- at least on the Democratic side. Senate President Pro Temp. Tim Ashe of Burlington and Assistant Attorney General Molly Gray of Burlington have run the highest profile campaigns. State Sen. Debbie Ingram of Williston and Brenda Siegel of Newfane, an unsuccessful candidate for governor two years ago, also are in the race.
On the Republican side, Scott Milne, who narrowly lost the governor’s race to Peter Shumlin in 2014, has the greatest statewide recognition among the 5 candidates. The others are Dana Colson Jr., of Sharon, Meg Hansen of Manchester, Jim Hogue of Calais and Dwayne Tucker of Barre Town.
In the race among Democrats for Auditor of Accounts is incumbent Doug Hoffer of Burlington against State Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan of Dorset.
The Republicans also have a primary contest for Attorney General H. Brooke Paige of Washington being challenged by Peyton, who also is running for governor.
State Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle/Colchester appears to have smooth sailing for re-election. The Dean of the Vermont Senate is the lone Democrat to file and nobody filed for any other party for the general election.
The same might be possible for two Republican Senators from the Franklin/Alburgh District. Sen. Randy Brock of Swanton and Corey Parent of St. Albans Town do not have any competition in the Republican primary and there are no announced candidates for any other party.
In the House race for the Grand Isle/West Milton district, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero and Andy Julow of North Hero are seeking the two seats for Democrats in the primary.
Rep. Leland Morgan, R-West Milton and his nephew Michael Morgan also of West Milton are the lone candidates for the two Republican nominations.