In the wake of the Iowa Caucus, two things seem obvious: There are concerns about the election process; and the large turnout could have a very interesting impact on Vermont.
According to the New York Times on Thursday, the results released by the Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday were riddled with inconsistencies and other flaws. According to a New York Times analysis, more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data, or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses.
In some cases, vote tallies do not add up. In others, precincts are shown allotting the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates. And in at least a few cases, the Iowa Democratic Party’s reported results do not match those reported by the precincts, the Times noted.
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos penned a commentary aimed at allaying any fears that Vermonters might have about the process here. He maintains, and has since the 2016 election, it can’t happen here.
In Vermont, a primary is held instead of a caucus, meaning that voters will make their selections in private, he said by way of explanation. On March 3, Vermont’s presidential primary day, voters must declare which party’s primary they wish to vote in. Only the voter knows who they actually voted for.
As is the case for any statewide election in Vermont, the primary is administered by town or city clerks — not by members of the political parties, or their volunteers.
“Our clerks are trained election officials, and their election workers also receive training for the work they do at the polls. These are dedicated and highly competent public officials, who work incredibly hard to administer our elections,” Condos wrote. “Our primary elections follow strict procedures for how elections are administered, and the clerks receive support from our office. In Iowa, the Secretary of State is not in charge of the caucus, the political parties are.”
In addition, because a paper ballot is cast in Vermont, it is easily recounted if there is a question. No phone apps are used.
Condos is proud of the fact that Vermont was ranked best in the country for elections administration by MIT’s Election Performance Index following the 2016 election.
“I don’t just say that to toot our own horn — much of the credit goes to our clerks — I just want Vermont voters to feel confident in our process,” he said.
Vermont is expected to have another strong showing this year. With an broad selection of Democrats from which to choose, including our own Bernie Sanders, turnout at the polls is expected to be well above average.
In the 2016 presidential elections, 39.8% of Vermont residents turned out to vote in the primaries, making it the third-highest voter turnout of any state, according to the United States Election Project.
With an eligible voting population of 495,563 in 2016, 135,256 cast votes; 61,756, Republicans.
(New Hampshire topped the list, with a 52.4% primary voting rate. It could break that record next week, election officials in the Granite State predict. It always depends on the weather …)
March 3 also is Town Meeting Day. The implications of a larger-than-usual voter turnout could have an unpredictable effect on local municipal and school budgets, as well as local elections. In fact, it is not probable, it is likely.
Local officials are ever-mindful of the fact that voters who do not follow local issues closely, but have a deep concern for the direction of the nation, will come out in droves. In many communities, those same voters will also be handed a ballot for consideration of local budgets and local elections. And voter attitude at the polling place can be fickle, petty and even vindictive. (There is nothing to stop a registered Republican voter from taking out a Democratic ballot to select a long-shot candidate to be the nominee, and then switch gears and vote on party or principle on local issues and officials.) That will likely be a small number of the voting bloc that day.
But there will be a lot of voters making decisions on issues about which they are not informed. In communities where school budgets are up (or are seeing the first combined budget in a unified district because of Act 46), the impulse may be, “No way. I’m not paying for all of that!”
But “all of that” has context, and is represented on a ballot as a pass/fail, but considerable thought, debate and public process went into those warnings and ballot items. In other words, voter attitude on March 3 is going to be critical for Vermont communities.
In these few weeks leading up to Town Meeting Day/Presidential Primary Day, take the time to educate yourself about your community’s municipal and school budgets. Learn about the candidates running for office. Do your due diligence.
Budgets will fail, there is no question. But the longer the process goes, the greater the risk, locally.