Vermont will allow voters to cast ballots the same day they register to vote, effective January 2017. It used to be that voters would need to register close to a week before casting a ballot. “For the greatest democracy in the world, the number of people who vote in elections is too low, and it hurts our democracy because it’s so low,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt. Shumlin authorized the so-called same-day voter registration law Monday in Montpelier, making Vermont the fourteenth state to have such a law. Other states that allow same-day voter registration include New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maine, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
November came and went, and even until Thursday, Vermonters did not know who would be inaugurated as governor. They seemed to take this uncertainty in stride, much as they ignored the record-breaking low temperature of minus 20 degrees that encased the gray granite statehouse here in a brittle air. But on Thursday, members of the Vermont House and Senate elected the state’s governor — by secret ballot. They chose Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, giving him his third two-year term. That’s right: 179 state legislators had the final say, not the 193,603 voters who cast ballots for governor in the Nov. 4 election. “Thank you all for making it possible for me to be able to give this speech today,” Mr. Shumlin told legislators a few hours later as he delivered his inaugural address in the House chamber. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” He had reason to be grateful.
Lawmakers will cast ballots Thursday morning and elect the state’s next governor, but don’t expect any public airing of how each of Vermont’s 180 legislators voted. It’s pretty widely understood by now that since no candidate received a majority of the popular vote in November, lawmakers must decide the race, according to Vermont’s constitution. They’ll do that Thursday morning when the 30 members of the Senate make the short walk to the House chamber for a joint assembly. They have three choices: incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin, Republican Scott Milne and Libertarian Dan Feliciano. Shumlin won a plurality of the vote, topping Milne by 2,434 votes, or roughly 46 percent for Shumlin and 45 percent for Milne. Feliciano earned 4 percent of the vote.
When I announced my retirement from the Legislature after 22 years, a surprising number of people asked me to continue writing “Scribblings.” I have considered those requests, and I have decided to make the effort. How long it will last and how frequently I will write remains to be seen. There is a vast difference between writing with inside knowledge of the doings on the hill and looking at things as the outsider I have become. However, realizing the futility of trying to keep my mouth shut when issues arise, I will occasionally get to work on the keyboard. The following is my first effort. But first, may I wish each and every one of you the best for the new year. On Thursday, Vermont will hold an election for governor. Only 180 people will be eligible to vote. Because no candidate received a majority of votes for governor Nov. 4, the Vermont Constitution declares that there has been “no election,” and it falls to the members of the General Assembly, meeting together in joint session, with each member having one vote, to elect the next governor. They must choose from among the three candidates for governor who received the greatest number of votes Nov. 4 — in this case Peter Shumlin, Scott Milne and Dan Feliciano.
Republican Scott Milne will not call for a recount of last Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, the candidate said Wednesday. Milne acknowledged that incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin received the most votes of any candidate for governor, but opted not to concede. He left open the possibility of an appeal to the Legislature, which will formally elect the next governor because no candidate got a majority of the vote. Milne said he will talk next week about how he believes the Legislature should vote in January. He has denied claims that he is lobbying legislators to vote for him. Debate since the election has centered around whether lawmakers should vote for the candidate they choose or the one who won their legislative district. The Legislature has elected the first-place finisher in every instance since 1853.