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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

How, Exactly, The Legislature's Vote For Governor Will Work

Angela Evancie
Senate Secretary John Bloomer sorts through paperwork and legislation at the Statehouse on Wednesday, Jan. 7. On Thursday, a joint assembly well choose Vermont's next governor.

When lawmakers vote on Thursday to elect Vermont's next governor, it's likely that an effort will be made to change the voting system from a secret, written ballot to an open roll call, but this change will not be allowed.

"The real problem with suspending the rule you can do that but it sure does not suspend the Constitution," Senate Secretary John Bloomer on why efforts to ask for an open roll call in the Legislature's vote for governor would be ruled out of order.

Members of the House and Senate will receive a paper ballot with the names of the top three vote getters in November's gubernatorial election; Democrat Peter Shumlin, Republican Scott Milne and Libertarian Dan Feliciano.

Lawmakers will elect the next governor because the Vermont Constitution calls for a legislative election when no candidate receives a majority. That's what happened in November, when Shumlin got 46 percent of the vote and Milne got 45 percent.

Some lawmakers say they may move to suspend the rules of the Joint Assembly and ask for an open roll call vote so that Vermonters will know how each legislator voted on the gubernatorial election. But the chief parliamentarian of the Joint Assembly, Senate Secretary John Bloomer says he'll recommend that that plan be ruled out of order.

Bloomer says that while it is possible to suspend rules to alter certain legislative procedures, it won't be allowed in this case because it means overturning the Vermont Constitution:

"The real problem with suspending the rule you can do that but it doesn't suspend the statute and it sure doesn't suspend the constitution,” said Bloomer. “So it can't be done by a rule suspension."  

Before the voting begins, Bloomer says it will be possible for individual lawmakers to speak about the candidates and the election if they want to. He says this procedure is used in other legislative elections including the approval of state judges.

"They can debate it. They can discuss it,” said Bloomer. “Whatever they see fit to try to persuade the other individuals just like a bill just like a resolution they're trying to persuade the other legislators, House members, Senate members how to vote."

Both Democratic and Republican leaders insist that they are not conducting vote counts for this election. They say it is a decision that legislators must make on their own.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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