Early voting high in Vt.
By Kevin O’Connor
STAFF WRITER | November 05,2012
Ready to roll to the polls this Election Day? Up to a quarter of Vermont’s eligible voters instead will stay home for one increasingly cited reason: They already cast their ballots.
Some 70 percent of the state’s electorate will participate in local, state and national races to be decided Tuesday, officials estimate, nearing if not matching record turnout of four years ago.
Vermont’s voter checklist now totals about 458,000 of its population of 626,431 — “to our knowledge, an all-time high,” Secretary of State Jim Condos says. But an equally newsworthy number is the percentage of locals requesting absentee ballots by mail or early visits to their town or city clerks.
Brattleboro expects 2,000 of the town’s 8,800 voters will cast their choices before Tuesday.
“It’s been crazy — we’ve been right out straight,” Town Clerk Annette Cappy says. “We’re averaging over 100 voters a day.”
Montpelier estimates up to 1,400 of the capital city’s 6,500 voters will submit ballots beforehand.
“Early voting is a good bellwether of interest,” City Clerk John Odum says. “And we’ve seen a real spike in new voter registrations, too.”
The number of eligible voters is rising statewide. Rutland City has added 300 names to its 11,800-person checklist since the August primary. Bigger still percentage-wise, Barre City reports a similar jump to its 6,600-member electorate.
Although early voting is making national news — about 25 million Americans have already voted in 34 states and the District of Columbia, The Associated Press reports — the Vermont numbers aren’t on average as high as those in the days before President Barack Obama’s historic election in 2008.
Middlebury, for example, figures up to 1,000 of its 4,800-person checklist will vote early this fall — down from 1,600 four years ago.
“In 2008, we were swamped for about a month,” Town Clerk Ann Webster says. “This year has picked up only in the last week.”
Barre City has received some 800 absentee-ballot requests compared with about 1,300 four years ago.
“I’m a little surprised,” City Clerk Carolyn Dawes says. “I don’t know whether that means turnout will be low overall or we’ll see more people at the polls.”
The secretary of state estimates about 70 percent of Vermont’s eligible voters ultimately will participate — a figure equal to 2004 but slightly lower than the 72 percent turnout of 2008. (Non-presidential years average from 55 to 60 percent.)
Historic or not, early voting is keeping town and city clerks busy. Randolph Town Clerk Joyce Mazzucco has spent the past several weeks juggling her usual land records and marriage and dog licenses with a 3,000-person checklist that’s recording up to two dozen absentee-ballot requests and 10 new voters a day.
“It’s been pretty steady,” Mazzucco says. “It’s not as heavy as it was four years ago, but it’s pretty close.”