Lawmakers have given their approval to a bill that moves up the date of the state’s primary election, but the plan won’t go into effect until 2016.
If this bill is signed into law by the governor, Vermont’s primary date would move from the fourth Tuesday in August to the second Tuesday of that month.
Senate Government Operations chairwoman Jeanette White, D-Windham, says federal election officials insisted that the change be made.
That’s because the Department of Justice determined that the current date doesn’t give the state enough time to mail general election ballots to voters serving overseas in the military if there’s a recount in any of the statewide races.
Because Vermont experienced a statewide recount in each of the last two primary elections, White says federal officials mandated that the primary date be moved up by at least two weeks.
“We were sued by the Department of Justice and part of the agreement was that we would deal with it and then they wouldn’t sue us again. If we don’t do something they’ll sue us again,” said White. “In New York they chose not to do anything about it and the Department of Justice changed it for them and it changed it to June.”
White says the new date isn’t her first choice because it comes in the middle of the summer. But she says the availability of early ballots should help deal with this situation.
“If the ballots are ready 45 days ahead of time people can absentee vote so they don’t have to be here on the second Tuesday in August to vote,” said White. “I’d much rather have it in September when people are back but that’s not going to happen.”
White says the new system will go into place in 2016 because there wasn’t enough time to make these changes during the current election season.