Write-in votes will take time to tally
By Neal P. Goswami
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | August 24,2014
MONTPELIER — Results from the state’s primary balloting Tuesday could be delayed because of high-profile write-in campaigns being waged for the state’s top offices.
Secretary of State Jim Condos said write-in campaigns will take longer for election officials in each town and city to count.
“Write-in campaigns will create a lot of work for Vermont’s hard-working town clerks and other local election officials,” he said. “All write-in votes have to be recorded.”
In the GOP primary for governor, Libertarian candidate Dan Feliciano is hoping to overcome establishment candidate Scott Milne, whose name appears on the ballot along with fellow candidates Steve Berry and Emily Peyton.
Feliciano has won the support of several state Republican party officials. Write-in campaigns are hard to win, but Feliciano is expected to tally significant votes that will have to be reviewed by officials.
Meanwhile, Progressive Dean Corren hopes to win enough votes on the Democratic ballot for lieutenant governor. The party is not fielding its own candidate after John Bauer dropped out when he did not secure enough support for public financing.
Additionally, a small groundswell of Doug Racine supporters, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and the recently dismissed Agency of Human Services secretary, are urging voters to support him against Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. The effort is expected to produce negligible votes, but could add additional work time for officials.
Condos said official results will not be finalized until one week after the Tuesday primary. However, town clerks are mandated to report unofficial results to the secretary of state’s office on election night. That could require working late into the night, according to Condos, though those early results won’t note the number of votes tallied for individual write-in candidates.
“On election night, they will only be reporting the total number of write in votes per race — not by individual. The official return of votes will be sent to the Secretary of State over the two to three days following the election,” he said.
“The election staff will be working into the weekend compiling the statewide votes and they are not official until Tuesday after the Canvass Committee meets,” Condos said. “That is when we will know the election results.”
Montpelier City Clerk John Odum said he doesn’t expect the various write-in campaigns to substantially slow progress.
“It isn’t so much a particular challenge as it is particularly time consuming,” he said. “An election like this, it’s probably not a big deal because it’s a lower-turnout election. It really is just a matter of putting in some extra time and person power to it.”
Low voter turnout, which is expected in this nonpresidential election year, will likely help alleviate some pressure for clerks.
“This year’s general election does not have races for either president or U.S. Senate,” said Condos. “That will typically result in a lower primary turnout. Also, there are fewer contested primary races as well. I am reluctant to predict except to say that I believe the turnout will be low and could range from 8.5 percent to 24 percent.”
Voter turnout in the previous four primaries has varied. It was 9.3 percent in 2006, 8.5 percent in 2008, 24 percent in 2010 and 23 percent in 2012.
“Keep in mind that 2008 and 2012 were presidential election years and 2006 and 2010 were nonpresidential,” Condos said. “At a quick glance you can see there is no consistent pattern. The 2010 primary featured five Democrat candidates for governor so turnout was heavy. I believe the turnout will depend on the interest in any competitive races.”
Odum said early voting has been “very, very light,” an indication that voter turnout on primary day will also be low.