Vermont's Vote: Record-Breaking Early Ballots, And Over 18,000 Write-Ins For Bernie

Nov 15, 2016

According to the official results from last Tuesday's election, a record number of Vermonters voted using an early ballot. The results also show that Sen. Bernie Sanders received almost 6 percent of the vote in the presidential race as a write-in candidate.

Exactly one week after Election Day, state officials sat down with representatives of Vermont's three major political parties to certify the results of the statewide races.

“In light of a lot of the concern about problems and issues surrounding this election and the lead up to this election, I was personally really pleased with how smoothly Election Day went in general,” said Will Senning, the director of elections in the Secretary of State's office.

Secretary of State Jim Condos noted that a record number of Vermonters cast early ballots. Just over 95,000 voters used this method of voting.

It represents roughly 30 percent of all people who voted in this election. Condos says the use of early ballots in several other states is even higher.

"In some states, it's 50 or 60 percent,” Condos says. “I think we have stepped up our game here in getting the message out."

The canvassing report also shows that Sen. Bernie Sanders received just over 18,000 write-in votes in the presidential race. This represents just under 6 percent of the vote.

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Josh Wronski, the elections director for the Vermont Progressive Party, says he’s not surprised by the large number of votes for Sanders.

"I think a lot of people felt like Vermont was a safe place to write Bernie in,” Wronski says. “We don't live in a swing state where there was any risk of Trump getting elected, so I think there's a greater potential for folks to do that."

"I think a lot of people felt like Vermont was a safe place to write Bernie in." - Josh Wronski, Vermont Progressive Party elections director

Wronski says the 2016 election was a watershed year for the Progressive Party. It picked up one seat in the Vermont House; the party now has seven members, and there are three Progressive senators.

And for the first time ever, a Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor was elected: Chittenden Sen. David Zuckerman.

“It's just a really big deal for our party,” Wronski says. “It's increasing our recognition around the state. It's increasing the viability of our message and our ability to run candidates all over the place." 

Jeff Bartley, the executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, says the party's top priority was the election of Phil Scott to be the state's next governor.

The Republican House caucus lost one seat in the election. It will now have 52 members — just enough to sustain a veto on an issue that falls entirely on party lines.

“Obviously picking up the governor's race was a priority,” Bartley says. “But considering we had [President] Barack Obama running ads [supporting Democratic candidate Sue Minter] and Bernie Sanders running ads and a massive amount of money coming from out of state, to … pretty much stay the same in the House [with] the ability to sustain a veto is a pretty good win."  

Conor Casey, the executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, says losing the governor's race was a big disappointment, but he's pleased that the Democrats had a number of other victories.

"We're heartened that we won the other statewide races,” Casey says. “And we still have strong leads in both legislative chambers. So we do have a divided government now, but we'll do our best to work together."

Despite losing in the Electoral College, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did win the nationwide public vote.

And Secretary of State Condos is backing an effort to throw out the Electoral College and move to a system where the candidate with the most votes is elected president.

“I think the idea is that every vote will count then,” Condos says.

Meanwhile, there will be a recount in the Washington County state senate race, where longtime GOP senator Bill Doyle lost by 187 votes. And there will be recounts in at least three House races.

Condos expects most of these recounts will be conducted sometime next week.