The 2020 elections might turn out to be the most consequential of the 21st century so far — for Vermonters and for all Americans. At the national stage, in the midst of a global pandemic and economic downturn, a heated and unusual presidential election is drawing closer to its end. Whatever the outcome, there is likely to be outrage on one side or the other — an unfortunate consequence of continuing political polarization.

Meanwhile, the balance of power in the Senate is contingent upon this election, with the majority swinging one way or another depending on which poll you look at. Who wins the Senate is likely to control a significant portion of the agenda in Washington for the next two years — notably, with court appointments.

At the state level, the importance is no less significant. Whatever the outcome, next January we will have a new lieutenant governor and a new president pro tempore of the Senate. COVID-19 has changed the way we look at politics, also the way we are able to vote.

Here are just a few facts that are unusual, to say the least: We’re on track for perhaps record-breaking turnout this year. The Vermont Republican Party has fielded more candidates in decades, including for all but two seats in the Vermont Senate. In the August primary, well-known politicos in Montpelier were tossed out, including Sen. Tim Ashe in his race for lieutenant governor and Burlington Rep. Jean O’Sullivan in her bid for re-election, among others. Gov. Scott will be tested for his COVID-19 response which, by all measures, Vermonters approve of in overwhelming margins. We’re likely to see the first female president pro tempore of the Senate. We’re also likely to elect the first transgender candidate in the history of the Vermont Legislature. Down-ballot and county races — like several contests for high baliff — have received an unusual amount of attention, as well.

In short, this election will be unique and historic.

For all of these reasons, Vermonters have a greater obligation than ever to get out and vote. Or in these unique times, stay in and vote. Whatever party you identify with, the importance of this election cannot be understated. It will have lasting implications for the Vermont political dynamic, as well as the direction of the country as a whole.

I encourage all my fellow Vermonters to do their civic duty by carefully researching the candidates and the issues, and voting.

Don Turner, a former Republican state representative from Milton and House minority leader, as well as current Milton town manager.

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