No surprises in a primary election with ‘ridiculously low’ turnout

With 97.8 percent of the precincts reporting in Vermont’s primary held Tuesday, Politico.com is reporting that Democratic incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin easily defeated H. Brooke Paige with 82.5 percent of vote from those picking up Democratic ballots. He garnered 15,164 votes to Paige’s 3,225. Republican Scott Milne also came out on top against two other contenders, with 84.6 percent (10,410) of that vote. Steve Berry received 1,065 votes while Emily Peyton got 993.

Milne and Shumlin will face Peter Diamond of the Liberty Union Party in the November general election.

The voter turnout could easily be characterized as poor. As of 2012, Vermont was logging 342,221 registered voters. But, going by this year’s gubernatorial primaries, only about 36,000 of them bothered to vote. You can find more elections results, with a breakdown by county and precinct, at the Secretary of State’s website.

Chester mirrored the rest of the state, said Town Clerk Deb Aldrich, with only 136 stopping in at 556 Elm St. to fill out a ballot on Tuesday. (Chester has more than 1,500 registered voters.) In Chester, Shumlin got 59 votes, Paige received 5; Milne got 46, Berry 6 and Peyton 1.

Aldrich called the voter turnout “ridiculously low,” adding, “I don’t think people pay attention to what is going on. … People need to pay more attention.”

In the only contested federal race – this one to face incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Liberty Union Party candidate Matthew Andrews in November – Mark Donka beat out Donald Nolte and Donald Russell. Donka received 3,831 votes (42 in Chester) to Russell’s 3,737 (6 in Chester) and Nolte’s 3,422 (7 in Chester).

The only other contested statewide race was for Attorney General, where incumbent William Sorrell easily defeated H. Brooke Paige.

He’ll face Rosemarie Jackowski of the Liberty Union Party in the November election.
— Cynthia Prairie

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Verespy says:

    Well said, Chris. I could not agree more!

  2. The Vermont legislature saw fit to move the date of this Primary to the 4th Tuesday of August a few years ago. The Primary election had been held in mid-September up until that point. In my opinion, one could not choose a worse date to hold a Primary election than at the end of August. Folks are scrambling to get their children ready for school, educators and school staff are overwhelmed trying to get ready for school to begin, and hardly anyone else can focus on an election after the last week of summer vacations have been taken. And due to my support of my wife and our household during this time I simply could not carve out the time to vote as I hold a full-time sales job that takes me all day, and sometimes more to complete on Tuesdays. It is not “a lack of attention.” I could certainly find the time to vote in mid-September after all this end-of-summer stuff calms down.

    Chris Kleeman
    Chester, VT