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Want To Predict Vermont's Election Results? Look To These Three Towns

Angela Evancie
VPR file
In 19 of the last 20 elections, the gubernatorial winner in the towns of Jericho, Bethel and Randolph have won the statewide vote.

For the past 40 years, three Vermont "mirror towns" have been accurate reflections of the statewide outcome of nearly gubernatorial election.

Overwhelmingly, the candidate that wins in Jericho, Bethel and Randolph on election day ends up in the governor’s office a few months later. At least two of the three towns have followed this rule in 19 of the 20 elections since 1974. In one election – 1984 – Madeleine Kunin won the statewide race by 1.5 percentage points and all three towns voted against Kunin by at least 3 percentage points.

Otherwise, these towns can serve as relatively accurate predictors of gubernatorial races; their relatively small populations means they often report results early, making it easier to get a prediction of how the state as a whole will come in as election night wears on.

After decades of covering politics in Vermont, VPR senior reporter and Vermont Edition host Bob Kinzel began to wonder if there were towns in the state that could serve as early indicators of election results. In 2006, he did some research.

“I started going backwards and looking at the results of the 251 towns, and quickly eliminated the ones that got it wrong,” he said.

By the time he got back to the early 1980s, six towns remained – mirroring statewide results the majority of the time, with fairly close accuracy. But Jericho, Bethel and Randolph stood out.

The towns turned into a reporting tool for Kinzel, and correctly mirrored the statewide results in 2008 as well. But after polls closed in 2010, the results of the mirror towns looked to be faulty. Kinzel remembers a live election night broadcast with co-host Jane Lindholm.

Overwhelmingly, the candidate that wins in Jericho, Bethel and Randolph on election day ends up in the governor's office a few months later.

“At about 10:30, all six towns were in, and they all showed [Democrat Peter] Shumlin by either a point or two points, and [Republican Brian] Dubie was ahead in the [statewide] popular vote,” Kinzel said. “And Jane said ‘Bob, what’s happening with your towns?’”

But as the results became final, Shumlin’s victory was secure and so was the decades-long streak of the mirror towns in indicating the statewide vote.

“I’m not sure why it works except that these are all really good ticket-splitting towns,” Kinzel said, meaning the three towns don’t tend to vote along strict party lines.

They voted for Republican Jim Douglas and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. They voted for Democrat Peter Shumlin and Republican Phil Scott in 2010. This tendency reflects a wider theme in Vermont politics.

Will the three mirror towns continue the streak this year?

“It’s always a little bit of a leap of faith,” Kinzel said. "But I would say if we wake up Wednesday morning and we look at what these towns did in the race for governor and lieutenant governor, we would have it pretty darn close.”

Below, see how mirror towns' results compared to statewide results (in green) over the past 40 years.

Mobile users: Click here to view this interactive graphic on Infogram.

HOW VERMONT'S "MIRROR TOWNS" HAVE VOTED, 1974-2012 | Create Infographics

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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