Liveblog For Vermont's Town Meeting Day, Super Tuesday
The first Tuesday in March, at least in Vermont, always means one thing: Town Meeting Day. March 3 was also Super Tuesday, and Vermont was one of 14 states and one territory that held presidential primary contests.
We have Vermont presidential primary results from the Associated Press:
Scroll down for on-the-ground reports from VPR staff.
Senator Bernie Sanders won his home state of Vermont by a wide margin on Super Tuesday, but he was considerably less dominant than he was in the 2016 primary race against Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, Sanders won 86% of Vermont's vote to Hillary Clinton's 14%, meaning Sanders took all of the state's pledged delegates.
This time, Sanders got 51% of the vote with 99% precincts reporting, against multiple opponents. That gets him 10 pledged delegates. Joe Biden got 22% of the vote, meaning he'll end up with 5 delegates from Vermont.
Those results are astoundingly similar to a poll conducted by VPR and Vermont PBS in early February. The poll, which surveyed a total sample of just over 600 registered Vermont voters between Feb. 4 and Feb. 10, asked respondents who they planned to vote for in the presidential primaries.
Of those who said they'd vote Democratic, 51% chose Bernie Sanders. After that, 13% went for Pete Buttigieg, and 4% for Amy Klobuchar. Those two candidates suspended their campaigns and endorsed Joe Biden before Super Tuesday, and when their amounts are added to the 5% of respondents who said they'd vote for him, it all adds up to 22%.
Town Meeting results continued to come in over night, including:
- Voters in St. Albans City overwhelmingly approved their share of a proposed municipal pool, but voters in St. Albans Town narrowly defeated the measure, meaning the proposal is dead for now. The St. Albans Messenger reports that the Town selectboard chair said he was enthusiastic about the turnout, and left the possibility open that there could be another pool proposal.
- Norwich voters narrowly approved plans to spend $2 million for energy efficient upgrades for the town's Tracy Hall. Officials say the bond will replace the town hall’s annual use of 5,000 gallons of fuel oil and 870 gallons of liquefied propane. It will also add 1.9 cents per $100 of valuation to the tax rate. That's according to the Valley News. Norwich residents also okayed a policy barring local police from inquiring about a person’s immigration status or sharing immigration-related information with federal authorities.
- Voters in the Slate Valley Unified Union School District have rejected a proposed budget as well as a nearly $60 million bond for district-wide infrastructure and facility improvements. Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell said the budget failed narrowly while the bond failed by a wide margin — that's according to the Rutland Herald. The project would have addressed infrastructure needs at the high school, built a new district middle school, installed two new elevators at Fair Haven Grade School and potentially built a new gym and cafeteria at the Orwell Village School.
- Voters in the Mad River Valley have rejected a school district budget that would have reshuffled students and increased class sizes. The $39 million budget for the Harwood Union Unified School District failed on a 3,048 to 2,254 vote. The budget would have taken 5th and 6th grade students out of the Moretown elementary school and move them to an elementary school in Waterbury.
Just after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took the stage at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction.
“You know it’s a funny thing:  years ago today we won the mayoral race in Vermont,” Sanders said. “And we won that race against all of the odds. Everybody said it couldn’t be done.”
And now, decades later, Sanders said the same thing was happening again.
“I can tell you with absolute confidence: We’re going to win the Democratic nomination.”
At the time of his speech, Sanders had won Democratic presidential primaries in two states while former Vice President Joe Biden had won seven states. California, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas and Utah had yet to announce official results.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen later tonight, we’re doing well in Texas right now, we won Colorado, and I’m cautiously optimistic we can win the largest state in this country, the state of California,” Sanders said. “But no matter what happens, and I don’t know what will happen, but if we have one candidate that stands up for the working class and the middle class, we are going to win that election. And if we have a candidate that has received donations from at least 60 billionaires we are going to win that election."
(This update was corrected in order to reflect when Bernie Sanders was first elected mayor of Burlington in 1981).
Local results continue to come in like in Maidstone, which is no longer a dry town. Town Meeting Day voters in the Essex County town approved the sale of beer, wine and spirits — leaving Athens and Baltimore as the only Vermont towns where you can’t buy alcohol.
Town Clerk Bonnie Lovell said there is no store in Maidstone, and no one has expressed any interest in applying for a liquor license. But, she added, the ballot items came about because a couple people in town have wine delivered to their homes.
- Amy Kolb Noyes
And in Monkton:
$1.7 million bond vote in Monkton for a new town hall/library passed 520-382, according to select board member Bill Martin. Monkton has tried unsuccessfully several times to pass a bond for a new building. Now the town will try to find grant money to offset the increase in taxes.— Jane Lindholm (@JaneLindholm) March 4, 2020
Several Vermont towns saw notably high turnout Tuesday. According to the Vermont Secretary of State’s office, 81% of registered voters cast a ballot in Colchester Tuesday, while 66% did so in West Haven and 64% in Dover.
In Ward 1, longtime incumbent Independent Sharon Foley Bushor lost to Progressive candidate Zoraya Hightower 408-912. Democrat Jillian Scannell came in third place with 369 votes.
During the day Tuesday, Bushor remarked how much change she had seen in the ward.
“A lot of the renters have been here for a short period of time, so my connectivity with them is not as strong as it has been," Bushor said.
In Ward 2, Progressive incumbent Max Tracy easily retained his seat over Democrat Ryan Nick 1211-529.
In Ward 4, newcomer Democrat Sarah Carpenter won over write-in Republican Kurt Wright 1317-639. Independent candidate Ericka Redic trailed with 263 votes.
In Ward 5, Democratic incumbent Chip Mason held off Progressive challenger Nate Lantieri 1212-1027.
In Ward 8, Progressive candidate Jane Stromberg beat Democratic incumbent Adam Roof, 635-427.
The Progressive Party now has an outright majority on the city council. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said Tuesday he was prepared to work with the council however the makeup changed.
“Once we get through these partisan seasons, people sit down at that big u-shaped table, and they want to get things done for their neighbors,” Weinberger said.
Liam Elder-Connors and Elodie Reed
Twenty-five towns in the Northeast Kingdom have passed votes to form the NEK Broadband Communications Union District. It’s the first step in an effort to bring high-speed internet to communities throughout the region.
Likewise, in southern Vermont, five towns will join together to create the Deerfield Valley Communications Union District.
There are still a handful of towns yet to report voting results.
And in the Bennington area, eight out of eleven towns are reporting they will form a Southern Vermont Communications Union District.
The districts are a way for towns to combine resources in an effort to bring broadband internet to rural areas.
- Amy Kolb Noyes
Voters in Elmore have passed a 1% local option tax on short-term rentals. The tally was 254 in favor and 90 opposed.
There are no hotels in Elmore, so the lodging tax has been referred to locally as an “Airbnb tax.” There are a number of seasonal camps around Lake Elmore that are rented out through online platforms.
Elmore only considered the lodging local option tax, and not the sales or alcohol taxes that some towns have adopted.
- Amy Kolb Noyes
Gregory Thayer, of Rutland, was among the two dozen Donald Trump supporters who held a honk-and-wave for their candidate in Essex Junction this evening. The Associated Press has projected the president will win the Republican primary in Vermont.
Trump is one of three candidates on the GOP presidential primary ballot in Vermont, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and perennial presidential candidate Rocky De La Fuente.
Donald Trump may be a shoe-in for the Republican presidential nomination this year, but that didn’t stop about two dozen of his supporters from holding banners and waving to motorists in Essex Junction. They rallied just across the road from where Sen. Bernie Sanders is scheduled to deliver an election-night speech later tonight.
Burlington resident Thea Knight said Vermonters should be wary of Sanders’ candidacy.
“He wants to give free things to everybody, which is just taking money from some people and giving it to others,” Knight said. “And plus he’s never really run any big thing. He’s run for office all these years, but putting things into practicality, I do not see evidence of that.”
The Trump supporters got a few friendly honks this evening. But they were also berated by some of Sanders’ supporters as they arrived at the Vermont senator’s rally at the Champlain Valley Exposition.
Gregory Thayer, of Rutland, said that kind of reception comes with the territory for Trump supporters in Vermont.
“[People] blow horns in our ears and they push our signs away. They stand in front of us,” Thayer said. “So I think they’re hostile and they don’t want to be team players, you know? Everybody has a right to their opinion.”
- Peter Hirschfeld
The Associated Press is projecting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will win the Democratic presidential primary in his home state.
Listen above to All Things Considered host Henry Epp get a Sanders rally update from VPR's Liam Elder-Connors.
Liam Elder-Connors is at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' Super Tuesday rally in Essex Junction, where Sanders is expected to speak sometime later this evening:
Voters in the Mad River Valley are torn over a school district plan that would close some classes, move students to other schools and lay off teachers.
Opponents – including two outgoing school board members – urged people to vote against the Harwood Union Unified School District’s $39 million budget.
Moretown resident Neil Nussbaum is against the plan because it sends students from Moretown to an already overcrowded school in Dudbury.
He stood outside the Moretown Town Hall on Tuesday, carrying a sign that said “Mexit” to urge voters to withdraw from the six-town district.
He said the budget hurts students in his town.
“The budget that’s been proposed would take the 5th and 6th grade out of Moretown Elementary School and move the 7th and 8th graders from Harwood Middle School over to Crossett Brook for really no reason whatsoever,” he said. “Moretown has population growth, unlike the rest of the towns that are in this district. It really makes no sense, except for the fact that we’re a rural minority town, and under Act 46, we are essentially disenfranchised.”
Act 46 is the state’s school district consolidation law. It created incentives for school districts to merge and to find ways to consolidate and improve education.
Caitlin Hollister, chairwoman of the Harwood Union Unified School District board, said the budget presents a carefully thought-out plan that will benefit students.
“I’m quite confident,” she said. “One, we’re bringing our middle-level educators together in a way where they can collaborate and team even more effectively together and in new ways. I don’t underestimate that they have a lot of work to do ahead. But I also know that they are incredibly talented, and the idea of all of them being under one roof and getting to work together for our students ultimately will be a huge positive.”
Still, the budget, with its teacher lay-offs and reshuffling of schools, is very controversial. The district board had earlier called for closing the Fayston Elementary School, a plan that is shelved for now. But voters in that small town Tuesday held a strong voice vote of no confidence in District Superintendent Brigid Nease.
Voters in the six-town district are deciding the budget by Australian ballot, so the outcome won’t be known until this evening, after polls close.
- John Dillon
Town meetings in Vermont are usually dominated by issues of local importance – whether to buy a new plow or road grader, for example.
But the new coronavirus is both a global disease and an issue of intense local concern. When state representatives showed up at the Fayston Town Meeting to explain their work in the Legislature, resident Raymond Schenk wanted to know what they were doing about the virus.
“What is the state doing, for instance, to facilitate local testing?” he asked. “We need faster turnaround time. I understand in Europe they are already drive-through testing, 10 minutes, you know whether you’re positive or negative. That’s something we should have at the airports.”
Waitsfield Representative Kari Dolan told Schenk the state health department has a comprehensive response plan, including advice for the public on limiting disease transmission.
Moretown Representative Maxine Grad added she was disappointed that Gov. Phil Scott vetoed a paid family leave bill, since she said that would have allowed people who get infected to stay at home and not expose others. Had the bill passed, it would have gone into effect July 1.
- John Dillon
According to the man who has served as the official, appointed weigher of coal in Richmond, the polls there have been busy all day:
VPR's Howard Weiss-Tisman spotted former Gov. Peter Shumlin after Shumlin cast his ballot in Westminster.
The Vermont Secretary of State's office reminds us who helps make election day possible (and that they are very proficient with GIFs).
Let’s give a round of applause to our hardworking Town/City Clerks, who are administering today’s elections. Many likely were working late last night and were up at 5am or earlier to make sure the front doors to our democracy are open for #VT voters. #TownMeetingDay #Primary2020 pic.twitter.com/oAt95DdQdj— Vermont Secretary of State’s Office (@VermontSOS) March 3, 2020
The town of Fletcher, which calls itself "a nugget of beauty in northern Vermont," passed its school budget according to the elementary school principal:
A huge thank-you to the Fletcher community for supporting the school budget by a 4-to-1 margin this morning, and providing much needed funding for capital improvements! Your support of our children is incredible! #FES #FWSU @VTEducation @vprnet @dsvannostrand @jrtager pic.twitter.com/iTtMg1kC2G— Chris Dodge (@FletcherFalcon) March 3, 2020
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger told VPR's Liam Elder-Connors he isn't saying who he voted for in the presidential primaries today:
Weinberger said the primary race has changed a lot in the last 24 hours & when I asked if he had to change his mind in that time, he laughed, paused and told me he’s looking forward to seeing tonight’s results— Liam Elder-Connors (@lseconnors) March 3, 2020
Amy Kolb Noyes reported at Wolcott's Town Meeting this morning, where the retiring town clerk of 34 years swore in her former assistant:
Volunteer Debbie Rosmus works the polls in Castleton. According to Town Clerk Nedra Boutwell, the bell is kept ready for any first-time voters to swing. While the town gets a lot of first-timers from Castleton University, there are also some older first-timers, too.
- Nina Keck
Meanwhile, in Thetford ...
- Angela Evancie
In Monkton, there's a big bond vote on the ballot — $1.7 million to build a new town hall and library. It's a longstanding issue of whether and how we need to replace the current configuration.
And on a separate note, some voters there seemed more interested in the local issues over the presidential primaries:
Interestingly, several people in front of me declined to take a presidential primary ballot at all, voting only on municipal issues instead. One of the polling volunteers said about 15 people had already done the same. 2/3— Jane Lindholm (@JaneLindholm) March 3, 2020
According to Will Senning, the director of elections and campaign finance for the Vermont Secretary of State's office, in primary presidential elections, town clerks record which party's ballot every voter takes. Those town clerks are then required to file with the Secretary of State a report showing all the people who voted in a party's primary, making that list a public record that anybody can request.
- Jane Lindholm
Some voters in Harwood Union Unified School District voiced their “No” vote to a $39 million budget because of a plan that would take elementary students out of Moretown. The “Mexit” sign is urging Moretown to leave the district.
- John Dillon
People are getting out and about to the polls on this fine sunny day:
Monday night, Proctor Town Meeting voters rejected a $1.5 million offer from a Florida developer for 1,650 acres of forest land that Proctor owns in nearby Chittenden.
The potential sale had sparked concerns over access to the land, which is currently used by hunters, hikers, skiers and snowmobilers.
Celia Lisananti, Proctor’s Town Clerk and Treasurer, said Monday night’s nonbinding floor vote was “a resounding ‘no.’”
Kate Wanner, of the Trust for Public Land, was also at the meeting. She told VPR more than 250 people attended, and at least 90% voted to keep their town forest. Wanner called that a win for public land.
- Nina Keck
Listen above to Nina Keck share reports from Rutland County with Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb.
Over in Rutland County, voters are feeling various levels of enthusiasm about the presidential primary.
Some knew exactly who they were – and weren’t – voting for. Maggie Ames, who was casting her ballot at the Godnick Adult Center in Rutland, said she couldn’t talk politics at home because she would vote for anyone but Donald Trump while her husband liked the current president. In the end, Ames went for former Vice President Joe Biden.
Howard Stickney, who was having a coffee in McDonald's Tuesday morning, said he leaned Republican but wasn’t feeling too hot about any of the candidates.
“To me, neither party is really presenting anyone worth giving a serious look at,” Stickney said. “The Democrats, they’re too busy fighting amongst themselves. Trump, I like a lot of his ideas and his policies. But he’s not the face we want to present to the world.”
Elizabeth Soulia on the other hand, who works in the library in Pittsford and just turned 18, said she was excited to vote for the first time. She also said she was questioning how to vote in a way that took into consideration not just herself but those around her.
“I know voting is supposed to be personal, but at the same time, your vote kind of decides for your community,” Soulia said.
She expected to vote for either Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
- Nina Keck
Listen above to VPR's Peter Hirschfeld share his reporting from southern California with Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb.
In advance of Super Tuesday, VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld visited southern California to see the on-the-ground campaign efforts of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Voters in California will award 30% of the 1,344 delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday – the state’s sheer size gives it an outsize role in the nominating process.
The winner of the Democratic primary in California has gone on to win the nomination in each of the last eight presidential cycles.
Among the the grassroots activists hoping to help Sanders get a big win in California is Shapla Choudhury, who spent a recent afternoon tabling on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles outside a mosque in Koreatown. Choudhury is part of a network of Sanders supporters known as Muslims For Bernie. She handed out pins and bumper stickers and campaign brochures to fellow Muslims arriving to worship.
Since he announced his first run for president in 2015, Choudhury said Sanders has made significant inroads in the Muslim community.
“We don’t care about his religion or his background. We don’t think of him as being Jewish or being white or being old. I mean, that doesn’t matter,” Choudhury said. “It matters to us what he stands for, and that he’s for justice for everyone. I think that’s the most important thing about Bernie, and about why we support him. I mean, almost every Muslim I’ve talked to supports Bernie.”
Dr. Bill Honigman, a retired emergency room doctor and Medicare-for-All activist, is the California state coordinator for a group called Progressive Democrats of America. PDA is one of several organizations engaged in electioneering on behalf of Sanders.
He said PDA views the moderate Democratic establishment in Washington, D.C., as an impediment to programs like Medicare for All, or a federal Green New Deal. He added that support for Sanders’ campaign is part of a broader national effort that’s trying to recast the ideological makeup of the U.S. House and Senate, as well as state legislatures and local municipal boards.
“We really need a groundswell, we need the blue wave to be a blue tsunami coming from California that washes over the rest of the country, where we can win the primaries not just every state but every state by double digits, by 10 points or more,” Honigman said. “That will send a message to Washington, and say, 'Hey, the people are not happy with what’s going on there, and these are the changes that we need to see.'”
- Peter Hirschfeld
Get your voting questions answered:
In Vermont, people can register to vote on election day. While there is an online registration option, the Vermont Secretary of State's office recommends that it be completed no later than the Friday before election day in order to ensure the application is processed in time. How to register in-person on election day, plus other Frequently Asked Questions, are posted here on the secretary of state's website.
Catch up on election news:
Between Saturday's South Carolina Primary and Monday afternoon, NPR reported several more Democratic candidates for president dropped out:
- Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar To Suspend Presidential Campaign
- 'We Sent A Message': Pete Buttigieg Ends Historic Presidential Bid
- Tom Steyer Drops Out Of 2020 Presidential Race
VPR's Peter Hirschfeld recently traveled to southern California to cover the Sanders campaign and his volunteers there:
- 'Super Volunteers' Try To Expand Reach, Influence Of Sanders Presidential Campaign
- Sanders Looks To Latino Voters To Deliver Victory In California Primary
VPR and Vermont PBS conducted a poll of registered Vermont voters in early February:
And on Wednesday, March 4, Vermont Public Radio, along with New England Public Radio and Maine Public, will host an hour-long America Amplified special focused on issues important to voters in Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine.
We want to hear from you:
- What most concerns you about your community or the country in the coming year?
- What do you want people to understand about your community or your life?
- What issues are motivating you to vote this year?
- If you're not voting, what keeps you from going to the polls?
Send your comments on the above and other questions you have about this year's election issues via Twitter to @vprnet, by email to AmericaAmplified@nepr.net, or through voicemail by calling 207-370-3487.
Town Meeting Day:
Members of the VPR news team have been keeping an eye on Town Meeting issues:
- Orwell To Tackle School Bond, Town Hall's Fate
- Town Meeting Voters In Proctor To Weigh In On Controversial $1.5 Million Land Deal
- Democrats And Progressives Compete For Control Of Burlington City Council
- Upper Valley Communities To Vote On Limiting Cooperation With U.S. Immigration Authorities
- Proposed Pool Depends On A New Wave Of Cooperation In St. Albans
- Community Report: South Burlington To Vote On $210M School Complex
- Dozens Of Towns To Hold Town Meeting Votes On Forming Broadband Districts
And in the latest episode of VPR's people-powered journalism project, host Angela Evancie and VPR senior political reporter Bob Kinzel answer your questions about Vermont's various levels of government, including the 250-year-old institution of Town Meeting:
This post will be updated.