Interest in absentee voting is high early in Vermont's primary voting season
Town clerks across Vermont are reporting strong voter interest in using early ballots for the Aug. 9 primary election.
Ballots have been available for the past two weeks.
Vermont law allows voters to cast their ballots within 45 days of the election. Voters are encouraged to contact their town clerk’s office to request a primary ballot if they want to use this option. The ballots can then be mailed back or dropped off in person at the clerk’s office.
More from Vermont Public: The evolution of early voting in Vermont
Unlike during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermonters' ballots will not automatically show up in their mailboxes for the primary. (They will for the General Election this November.)
To vote in the primary, you must request a ballot or vote in person.
Still, in many cases, officials interviewed by Vermont Public say demand in the first two weeks of early voting is exceeding levels from pre-pandemic primary elections.
In Rutland, City Clerk Henry Heck said as of Friday, his office had mailed about 600 absentee ballots.
“I don't think we've done 600 combined the last five primaries,” Heck said.
Two weeks into the 2022 45-day primary pre-voting window, the Secretary of State’s Office said there have been 34,484 ballots requested statewide and 5,704 already received back by the clerks.
That's compared to 6,424 ballots in 2016 and 3,486 ballots in 2018.
In 2020, however, in the midst of the pandemic, the Secretary of State's Office had 67,929 requests at this point in the primary election pre-voting window.
“There's a sense of trust the way elections are handled in the state, and because of that, people are enjoying the expanded opportunities associated with voting by mail and voting early."Barre City Clerk Carol Dawes
Town clerks says there are probably several factors behind the increased interest.
Barre City Clerk Carol Dawes said voters are familiar with the early voting process after the 2020 election.
“There's a sense of trust the way elections are handled in the state, and because of that, people are enjoying the expanded opportunities associated with voting by mail and voting early,” she said.
And she thinks many voters enjoyed using the early voting system.
“I think another thing that people have really enjoyed is an opportunity to spend some time with the ballot beforehand,” Dawes said. “They can sit there, they can study it, they can research the candidates before they make their decision and return their ballots.”
More from Vermont Edition: Secretary of State Jim Condos on early voting, his years in charge of elections
In Brattleboro, Town Clerk Hilary Francis says she thinks the large number of contested local and state races is also sparking voter interest this year.
“We've had a number of requests pretty early on,” she said. “They're a lot more open seats and a lot more contested races than we've seen in a state primary in a long time — I think that definitely is driving people."
Have questions, comments, or concerns? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Bob Kinzel: