Vermont primary expected to see light turnout, late night
MONTPELIER -- Less than a quarter of Vermont's registered voters are expected to turn out for the primary election, but vote-counting could go late into the night - or longer- after the polls close at 7 p.m.
That's because spirited efforts to seek write-in votes are being mounted by non-party members for the Republican nomination for governor and the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
In the gubernatorial race, the names of Steve Berry of Wolcott, Scott Milne of Pomfret and Emily Peyton of Putney will appear on the ballot as candidates seeking to face two-term Democratic incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin in November. Milne has the backing of party leaders including former Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
But Dan Feliciano of Essex, who is running unopposed for the Libertarian nomination for governor, also has been soliciting support from Republicans, and has garnered the backing of several GOP legislators, legislative candidates and Darcie Johnston, who managed Randy Brock's unsuccessful 2012 campaign against Shumlin.
The Progressive Party's Dean Corren, a former Vermont House member from Burlington, is seeking both the Progressive and Democratic nominations to face Scott, a two-term incumbent.
There's no Democratic candidate; John Bauer dropped out in June after failing to get enough support to qualify for public financing. But that doesn't mean Corren's a shoo-in. Some Democratic party leaders have been urging the party's voters to turn out in support of Scott, a moderate who is well liked in the majority-Democrat state Senate, over which he presides.
To qualify for the Democratic nomination, either Scott or Corren would have to receive a minimum of 250 write-in votes. If both do, it would be a head-to-head contest.
While candidates trying to win on write-in votes are rarely successful, primaries with low turnouts can produce surprises. And Secretary of State Jim Condos said a low-turnout is what he expected to see Tuesday.
"It's a non-presidential year and a non-U.S. Senate year," Condos noted. There's an open state Senate seat from Windham County that has prompted a primary, and eight or nine Vermont House races are seeing primaries, he said.
The only other race of note is for the Republican nomination for Vermont's lone U.S. House seat. Three are seeking the nomination, including Mark Donka, who won it two years ago and then lost to incumbent Democratic Rep. Peter Welch by more than a 3-1 margin.
Condos said that if the write-in campaigns do produce surprises, his office may not be able to say so for days afterward. Vermont law requires town and city clerks to provide unofficial results to the secretary of state Tuesday night. But they have to report only the totals for names on the ballot, and then the total of write-in votes, without designating which candidate got more of the latter.
That means a clerk could report 200 write-in votes for lieutenant governor, for example, without saying how many went to Corren and how many to Scott.
"We won't know for sure until 10 a.m. Tuesday (Sept. 2, a week after the primary) when the canvass committee meets" at his office to announce the official results, Condos said.
The polls open at 7 a.m. and close and 7 p.m.
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