Primary Election Hasn't Excited Voters; Turnout May Hit Record Low

Aug 20, 2014

While there seems to be some interest in two write-in campaigns for statewide office in next week’s primary election, state officials think that overall voter turnout will be extremely low. There are also concerns that the write-in efforts will complicate the vote counting process.

By most accounts, this has been an extremely quiet primary season in Vermont. It’s not a presidential year and it’s an off year for U.S. Senate campaigns.

A three-way primary for the Republican U.S. House nomination has not generated a great deal of interest and a three-way primary for the GOP gubernatorial nomination has also been relatively low key.

Secretary of State Jim Condos says voter turnout is driven largely by highly competitive statewide races. That’s why he’s expecting few people will vote in next week’s primary election.

"This year's statewide primary turnout could be a historically low turnout." - political analyst Eric Davis

“I think it’s really more about who’s on the ballot, what races are on the ballot and this time you’ve got some races here and there but it is really sporadic,” said Condos. “I believe it will be a low turnout but I would not render a guess as to what the percentage will be.”

Former Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis thinks voter interest is so low that fewer than 10 percent of all registered voters will take part in the primary election.

“This year’s statewide primary turnout could be a historically low turnout,” said Davis. “There are no seriously contested competitive races for any statewide office in any major party, the candidates who are running in the primary have been running very low key campaigns.”

There are two active write-in campaigns taking place next week. Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano is urging voters to write in his name on the Republican ballot and Progressive Lt. Gov. candidate Dean Corren is asking voters to write him in on the Democratic ballot.

Condos says dealing with these write-in ballots is a lot of extra work for many town clerks.

“Every ballot has to be checked to make sure there’s no write-ins on it,” said Condos. “So even though they might be a tabulator town every ballot still has to be reviewed to make sure that it didn’t miss somehow a  write-in candidate.”

Condos says it might be several days before the results of these write-in campaigns are known because most town clerks won’t initially tabulate the vote totals.

“On election night the only report that we will receive is the total number of write-ins, per race, per party,” said Condos. “We will not know on election night who would have won any of the races.”

Condos says some town clerks might release the specific results of the write in campaigns by the end of next week.

But he says the results won’t be official until Tuesday Sept. 2. That’s when a state canvassing committee will certify all of the primary election results.