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Elections in Vermont

Elections in Vermont are authorized under Chapter II of the Vermont State Constitution, articles 43–49, which establishes elections for the state level officers, cabinet, and legislature. Articles 50–53 establish the election of county-level officers.

Elections are regulated under state statute, Title 17. The office of the Vermont Secretary of State has an Elections Division that oversees the execution of elections under state law.


The U.S. state of Vermont holds its state general elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (better known as Election Day) in even-numbered years. As a result of this, general elections in Vermont systematically coincide with the biennial elections for the United States House of Representatives.

During general elections in Vermont, elections are held for the positions of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, Auditor of Accounts, Attorney General, state Senator, state Representative, State's Attorney, Sheriff, and High Bailiff, County Clerk, and Probate Judge. Officials elected to these offices are elected for a term of two years.

Vermont's Governor is elected at large. State Senators, and state Representatives are elected by district; County-level officers are elected by county.

Vermont has 150 seats in its House of Representatives, and 30 seats in its Senate.

An apparent election loser, behind by 2% or less of the total votes cast, may request a recount.[1]

The town clerks tally the ballots and report totals to the Vermont Secretary of State and the County Clerk. County clerks would be involved in official recounts under the jurisdiction of the Superior Court.[1]

Criteria for election

Vermont's Constitution requires that a gubernatorial candidate achieve a majority of the of the popular vote (i.e. more that 50%) in order to be elected. If a candidate does not receive a majority of the vote, the General Assembly (State legislature) choses from the three candidates who received the most votes. This has happened twenty times in Vermont history.[2] Twice in the 18th century, fourteen times in the 19th century, three times in the 20th century, and once in the 21st century.[3]


Both the Vermont Secretary of State and the chairperson of the state committee of each major party certifies primary elections under Vermont Statutes, Title 17, Chapter 51, article 2592.


Electorally, Republicans predominated for most of the state's history until the 1960s, even when the rest of the country was voting Democratic. Democrats have predominated at the polls since the 1970s even when most of the country was voting Republican.

In 1955, voters elected Consuelo N. Bailey Lieutenant-Governor, the first woman to be elected to that position in the country.

Voting patterns

It has sometimes voted contrarian in national elections. In 1832, Vermont was the only state voting for a presidential candidate from the Anti-Masonic Party. It was only one of two states to vote for William Howard Taft in 1912, and Vermont and Maine were the only states to vote against Franklin D. Roosevelt in all four of his successful presidential campaigns.[4]

Prior to 1915, Vermont held its general election in September. Because it was one of the earliest elections in the nation, it was carefully followed. National politicians campaigned in the state in the summer to influence the turnout, including Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.[5] While the vote was assured for the Republican party at that time, the size of victory was thought by some, before polls, to predict how the national elections might go.[4]

Republicans dominated Vermont elections from the party's founding in 1854 until the mid-1970s. From 1856 to 1988, Vermont voted Republican in every presidential election with only one exception in 1964. Vermont consecutively had Republican governors for over a century until Democrat Phillip Hoff was elected in 1962. Prior to the 1960s, rural interests dominated the legislature. As a result, cities, particularly the older sections of Burlington and Winooski, were neglected and fell into decay. People began to move out to newer suburbs.

In the early 1960s many progressive Vermont Republicans and newcomers to the state helped bolster the state's small Democratic Party. Until 1992, Vermont had supported a Democrat for president only once since the party's founding—in Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 landslide victory against Barry Goldwater.

Modern times

In the meantime, many people had moved in from out of state. Much of this immigration included the arrival of more liberal political influences of the urban areas of New York and New England in Vermont.[6]

In 1980, Vermont gave third party candidate John B. Anderson 14.9% of its vote, thereby tipping the state to Republican Ronald Reagan.[7]

In 1992, it supported Democrat Bill Clinton for president and has voted for Democrats in every presidential election since.

Vermont gave John Kerry his fourth-largest margin of victory in 2004, behind the Essex County in the state's northeastern section was the only county to vote for Bush. Vermont still remains the only state that President Bush has not visited.[8]

On the other hand, Republican Governor Douglas won all counties but Windham in the 2006 election. Vermonters have been ticket-splitters.[9]

Vermont's 2006 state general election was held on November 7, 2006.[10] The state's last state primary election was held on September 12, 2006.[10]

Vermont's 2008 state general election was held on November 4, 2008 and coincided with the 2008 US Presidential Elections. The state's primary election was held on September 9, 2008.

In 2008, the Democrats, in charge of the House, appointed Richard Westman, a Republican, to chair the Transportation Committee. When he resigned in 2009 to accept a post elsewhere, the leadership appointed another Republican, Patrick M. Brennan to that chair.[11]

In 2008, an Associated Press poll found that Vermonters self-described themselves as "liberal" (32%) more often than any other state in the union, behind only the District of Columbia.[12] In 2009, the state had a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+13, tying with Hawaii to be the most Democratic state in the country, exceeded only by the District of Columbia.[13]

In January 2010 nine Vermonters announced they were planning to run for several state offices: governor, lieutenant governor and seven seats in the state Senate on a Vermont secession platform.[14][15] The candidates did not organize a formal political party organization but are running as individuals under the "Vermont Independence Party" label.[16]

Political parties

Vermont law requires political parties to reorganize in every odd-numbered year by electing members at town caucuses and then sending representatives to county committees, which send representatives to the state committee meeting. Statute excepts minor parties from holding county meetings. The Vermont Secretary of State maintains a list of designated major and minor parties. For the years 2011-12, they were:[17]

Major Political Parties in Vermont

Minor Political Parties in Vermont

As of 2013, the state's governor and a majority of its legislature were Democrats. The governorship in Vermont has alternated between Democrats and Republicans since 1961. Democrat Howard Dean (1991 to 2003) is notable among governors for having run for the 2004 Democratic Presidential Nomination and having gone on to chair the Democratic National Committee.

The Vermont Progressive Party is a liberal left wing political party which has held a handful of seats in the Vermont legislature for two decades and has run candidates for numerous state and local elections. In 2009, they had five members in the Vermont House of Representatives and one member in the Vermont Senate. Progressive Bob Kiss was mayor of the largest city, Burlington from 2006-2012. It has had official recognition as a "major" political party by the state government since 1999.[18]

As of 2013, the Libertarian Party of Vermont had two elected municipal officials.[19]

In 2010 the Liberty Union Party, democratic socialist minor party, fielded nine candidates in state-wide elections.[20]


Vermont is one of only two states represented by a member of the United States Congress who does not currently associate with a political party: Senator Bernie Sanders describes his political views as socialist, but caucuses with the Democrats in the selection of the Senate leadership.[21] He was in the United States House of Representatives during the 1990s and early 2000s and has been in the U.S. Senate since 2007. Sanders often votes with the Democratic Party, but maintains his status as an independent in Congress.[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b Gram, Dave (1 September 2010). "Campaign civil in recount". Burlington, Vermont: Burlington Free Press. pp. 3B. 
  2. ^ Hallenbeck, Terri (November 2, 2008). How would Legislature pick next governor. Burlington Free Press. 
  3. ^ Secretary of State (2012-03-26). "Officers Elected by Joint Assembly after Failure to Achieve Majority". State of Vermont. Retrieved 2013-12-31.  [1]
  4. ^ a b Pollak, Sally (November 2, 2008). Vermont VOTING FACTS. Burlington Free Press. 
  5. ^ Lefebvre, Paul (January 7, 2009). Legislators cast wary eye at state budget. the Chronicle. 
  6. ^ "The World". Rise of the Democratic Party. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  7. ^ Bennett, William (2007). America, The Last Best Hope, Volume II. Thomas Nelson. 
  8. ^ Activists in Vermont town want Bush, Cheney subject to arrest –
  9. ^ "Vermont General Elections". For Governor. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  10. ^ a b Vermont Secretary of State (2006). "2006 Election Information". State of Vermont. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  11. ^ Free Press Staff, Report (5 September 2009). "Colchester's Brennan named Transportation chairman". Burlington, Vermont: Burlington Free Press. pp. 1B. 
  12. ^ The Associated Press (November 7, 2008). Vt. ranks as most liberal state. Burlington Free Press. 
  13. ^ "Partisan Voting Index Districts of the 111th Congress, Arranged by State/District". The Cook Political Report. 2009-04-10. 
  14. ^ 9 Vt. state office candidates favor secession, Associated Press, January 13, 2010.
  15. ^ Christopher Ketcham, The Secessionist Campaign for the Republic of Vermont, Time Magazine, January 31, 2010.
  16. ^ Pro-Secession Party Formed for Vermont, Ballot Access News, January 13, 2010.
  17. ^ Secretary of State (2011). "Party Organization in Vermont". Elections: Political Party Organization. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  18. ^ Secretary of State (2011). "Party Organization in Vermont". Elections: Political Party Organization. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  19. ^ Editors. "Vermont". Libertarian National Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  20. ^ Editors (2014). "2010 L.U.P. / Socialist Vermont Candidates". Liberty Union Party. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  21. ^ Powell, Michael. (November 5, 2006). Exceedingly Social, But Doesn't Like Parties. The Washington Post. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  22. ^ Bernie Saunders on the Issues. Retrieved November 10, 2014.

External reference

  • Elections & Campaign Finance Division at the Vermont Secretary of State official website
    • Election Law
  • Vermont at Ballotpedia
  • Congressional Papers collection, Center for Digital Initiatives, University of Vermont Library
  • Congressional Portraits collection, Center for Digital Initiatives, University of Vermont Library
  • Congressional Speeches collection, Center for Digital Initiatives, University of Vermont Library
  • Letters Home from Congress collection, Center for Digital Initiatives, University of Vermont Library
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