Early voting gets underway in Vermont ahead of Election Day

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 5:08 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Sept. 26 marks the beginning of early voting in Vermont, leading up to the general election in November. And once again, the state will mail out ballots to all active registered voters.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure your vote is counted.

The general election is coming into focus in Vermont this week, starting with the state mailing out ballots to active registered voters by towns alphabetically. That includes voters in South Burlington, where City Clerk Donna Kinville has been gearing up for months.

“All of the stuff that the town clerk does on a day-to-day basis-- all of a sudden you have these duties,” Kinville said.

There are a number of ways to make sure that your vote is counted: dropping it off at a mailbox or secure dropbox, leaving it at your town clerk’s office or bringing it to the polls on Election Day.

That ease of access, plus ballot curing and same-day registration, placed Vermont near the top of a new study outlining ease of voter access.

New Hampshire ranked at the bottom, namely because of failing to keep pace with reforms like online voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting.

2020 was a remarkable election year with record turnout driven by the pandemic and a hotly contested presidential election.

This year, Vermont has two open seats in Washington, several statewide offices and dozens of seats in Montpelier.

Having ballots in hand for over a month has a huge effect on how elections work. What was Election Day has now turned into a 45-day-long election season.

“Voters change their minds. They don’t have to decide until that moment they’re in there. Now, they’re going to be deciding throughout these different pivot points through the next month-and-a-half,” said Rich Clark, a political scientist at Castleton University.

Political scientists say that has a big influence on how the campaigns spend their final weeks. Campaigns can tell who has sent in their ballots and that allows them to focus time and money on specific voters. But it also raises questions about when to hold debates and public forums.

“Do you hold those closer to Election Day and hope to influence the swing voters, the undecideds?” Clark said. “Or do you hold them earlier so people can take in that information and use that before they vote?”