Early voting for the August 24th primary starts today. It's the earliest Vermonters have been able to vote and the change could have a big impact on the outcome of many crowded primary races.
While many Vermonters are out enjoying summer, the season of politics is quietly heating up. Under a new law, voting for the primary started Monday and all across the state town clerks started receiving ballots.
Political Scientist Eric Davis says early absentee voting will by key in the five-way democratic race for Governor. "What all five candidates will want to do is identify their core supporters and lock up the votes of those core supporters early," he said.
Campaigns will focus on a two step, get out the vote strategy. Davis says, "Once you cast a ballot early you can't go back and change your mind. So if candidates can get their core supporters to vote well in advance of the August 24th primary, say by the second week of August, that means the campaigns can focus on that two weeks leading up to the primary on undecided voters and trying to make the case with those who are not yet committed."
There are over 400-thousand registered voters. Only upwards of 60,000 are expected to vote in the primary. So a Democratic gubernatorial candidate could win with just 15-thousand votes, a small enough number to almost identify every voter.
"The results of the primary are not going to be determined by endorsements but by how much money the candidates have to get their message across, how much organizational support they have, particularly volunteers and grassroots organizational support," Davis said. With so many candidates, so many variables and the earliest primary in recent history, he said it makes it hard to predict the outcome.
Lawmakers say they changed the primary date from September to August to help military members serving overseas have time to cast ballots. But some charge that moving the date was politically motivated, to give the winner of the Democratic primary more time to prepare for the general election and take on Republican Brian Dubie, who does not have a primary contest.