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Date : July 15, 2024
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Vermont sees record high midterm turnout in historic election year

Vermont sees record high midterm turnout in historic election year

election day burlington 8 20221108
“I Voted” stickers sit on a voting machine at the polling place at the Sustainability Academy in Burlington on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

This year marked a historic election cycle for Vermont with record turnover, which appears to have propelled Vermonters to the polls — or their mailboxes — at record numbers.

Nearly 3 in 5 Vermont adults cast ballots this year, according to a VTDigger analysis of vote totals provided by the Secretary of State’s Office and statistics kept by the U.S. Census Bureau showing age demographics. 

The 57% participation marks the highest turnout for a midterm election in recorded history. Overall, it was bested only by the 2020 election, in which 73% of adults voted.

“And that’s something that Vermonters should be proud of,” outgoing Secretary of State Jim Condos told reporters on Tuesday.

Earlier, sitting at the helm of a long table in the Secretary of State’s Office, flanked by his staffers and representatives of each major political party, Condos canvassed and certified this election’s statewide vote totals for the last time of his career.

Asked what he thinks Vermont’s high turnout indicates about residents’ level of political engagement, he quipped, “Well, I would like to say that it’s high.”

Other marquee years for election turnout were 2018, which previously held the record for highest midterm participation at 55%. In 2016, a momentous presidential election year that also marked Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s first gubernatorial race, 63% of Vermont adults cast their ballots. In the 2010 midterms, when former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin was first elected, 49% of Vermont voters went to the polls. 

Rewind to the 2006 midterm, which, prior to this year’s election, saw Vermont’s most recent open race for Congress: That year, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch won his first term in the U.S. House, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders graduated from the House to the Senate, and 54% of Vermont adults cast their ballots.

Also driving Vermont’s voter participation is its newly implemented universal mail-in balloting system, which the Secretary of State’s Office first rolled out in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Initially devised as a way to keep election workers and the public safe amid Covid-19, the Vermont Legislature elected to keep the system in place in hopes of making it easier for the public to vote.

The percentage of Vermonters voting by mail declined in 2022 compared to 2020, despite the state sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

About 64% of votes in the 2022 general election were cast by mail, compared to 75% of ballots in 2020, the office reported

But it remained far higher than in previous years. Only about 22% of ballots were cast by mail between 2000 and 2018.

Mail-in voting was highest this year in Washington County, where 72% of votes were cast by mail, and lowest in Addison County, where the figure was 55%. There was no apparent correlation between mail-in voting and overall turnout by town.

At Tuesday’s canvassing, Condos and his staff alluded to pervasive election denialism and skepticism that has festered across the country. In states other than Vermont this year, candidates who have lost their bids for office have refused to concede their races, or have alleged widespread voter fraud.

“It's in a very disappointing phase,” Condos said. “I think we're still fighting the disinformation that's out there.”

As for what the majority of Americans make of claims of widespread voting fraud, Condos said, “You know, I'll let the votes, the election that we just had, speak to that. … Many of the naysayers who were running for secretary of state and governor, they were defeated around the country.”

“I think at this point in time, the general public has had it up to here with claims of disinformation,” he said, holding his hand up to his chin.

Read the story on VTDigger here: Vermont sees record high midterm turnout in historic election year.

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