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Vermont's 2020 Primary Election Is Like No Other. Here's What You Need To Know

Vermont Primary 2020 logo, with state of Vermont
Lara Dickson
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For VPR
Election Day is coming up. Do you have all the answers you need to cast your vote? Here's who's running in major statewide races, plus our coverage to-date of each major candidate competing in this year's primaries.

Vermont’s 2020 primary election is on Aug. 11, and early voting has already begun. Wondering how to vote by mail? Who the candidates are? Here's a last-minute guide.

Guide contents

Vermont Public Radio is seeking interviews with all candidates running for governor, lieutenant governor and U.S. Congress ahead of the Aug. 11 Primary. Keep an eye out for more on air and here, in our voter guide.

The deal with absentee ballots for a pandemic primary election

In a non-pandemic election year, any Vermonter who wishes to do so may register to vote early using an absentee ballot, which they can return to their town clerk as early as 45 days before the election.

Due to safety concerns about the coronavirus this year, state officials mailed individual postcard reminders to each of the roughly 450,000 active, registered Vermont voters, to encourage them to apply for an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

According to Secretary of State Jim Condos, a second postcard was used to confirm where people are living, along with prepaid return postage.

Condos told Vermont Edition that, as of early July, more than 50,000 Vermonters had requested absentee ballots — more than twice the number who did so in the primary elections of 2016 and 2018. 

For a list of addresses, office hours and contact information for all town clerk offices in Vermont, head here.

Anyone who wishes to will be able to vote in-person at their local polling place on Election Day. You can still request an absentee ballot online, by mail, or at your town clerk’s office. All absentee ballot requests must be submitted by 5 p.m. or by close of the town clerk’s office on the day before the election. 

However, the Vermont Secretary of State's office advises that anyone who plans to mail a ballot to their town clerk, do so no later than Monday, Aug. 3,  to make sure it arrives at your town clerk's office before closing the day prior to Election Day.

If you miss that window, don't fret: You can deliver your ballot by hand to your town clerk's office. Just be sure to do so before they close on Aug. 10.

Find yourself feeling sick leading up to Election Day? Or in quarantine? You can request that a ballot be delivered to your home on Election Day up until 5 p.m. on Aug. 10.

More from Vermont Edition: Secretary of State Condos Answers Questions On Voting In Primary, General Elections

How to vote by mail in the 2020 primary
Absentee ballots, envelopes, orange nasturtium on grass
Credit Abagael Giles / VPR
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VPR
Did you request an absentee ballot to vote in the 2020 Vermont Primary? Here's what it should look like. Nasturtium not included.

If you did request an absentee ballot, here’s what you should know:

  1. You’ll receive an envelope in the mail that contains three ballots (one each for the Republican, Democratic and Progressive primaries), along with three internal envelopes. Just one of these internal envelopes should be pre-addressed, with a prepaid postage stamp on it.
     
  2. One envelope is for your voted ballot. This envelope will have instructions on the outside, detailing how to vote. It should also have a certificate on it, which must be signed in order for your vote to be counted. You’ll want to follow those instructions closely.
     
  3. Remember, in Vermont, anyone can vote in any primary election, regardless of whether they are a registered member of a major political party; but you must choose a primary to participate in. So first, make your choice. Will you vote in the Progressive, Democratic or Republican primary?
     
  4. Take the ballots for the primaries you won’t be voting in, and place them in the envelope marked “Unvoted Ballots.” Note: Be sure to return all of your unvoted ballots in this envelope. If just one is missing, your vote won’t be counted. Place your full “Unvoted Ballots” envelope in the pre-addressed envelope labeled “Vermont Official Early Or Absent Voter Ballots.”
     
  5. Next, vote your chosen primary ballot. Follow the directions at the top of the ballot, and use a black pen or a pencil. Don’t erase if you made a mistake; return your ballot with the mistake and get a new ballot. 
     
  6. Your ballot, once voted and signed, should go into the envelope marked “Voted Ballot.” Double check you signed and dated the certificate on the back of the ballot, and place it inside the envelope labeled “Vermont Official Early Or Absent Voter Ballots.” There should now be two envelopes inside that envelope. 
     
  7. Now it’s time to transport your big envelope of envelopes to your town clerk. You can mail it (just drop it in the mail — it’s pre-addressed and the postage is prepaid), but you have to be certain that you get it in the mail in time for your town clerk’s office to receive it before they close on Monday, Aug. 10. Be sure to check your town clerk’s office hours. 

Worried about getting your ballot in the mail too late? You can also drop it off at the polling place before 7 p.m. on Election Day.
More from VPR: How Many Vermonters Have Already Voted? A Lot.

For key deadlines, voting accommodations and more information, head here.

Gubernatorial primary candidates

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

Democratic candidates for governor 2020 primary
Credit Screenshot / VPR
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VPR
On Tuesday, July 21, the four Democratic candidates for governor squared off over Zoom: Rebecca Holcombe, top left, Ralph Corbo, top right, Pat Winburn, bottom left and David Zuckerman, bottom right.

When it comes to policy at least, there isn’t much distance between the four Democrats seeking their party’s nomination in the Aug. 11 primary.

Voters will choose between Rebecca Holcombe, a former education secretary from Norwich, David Zuckerman, Vermont’s current lieutenant governor, Pat Winburn, a personal injury lawyer from Bennington, and Ralph Corbo, a Wallingford activist.

More from VPR: Debate Round-Up: Four Democratic Gov. Candidates Talk Health Care, Race, Economic Recovery

Zuckerman, Holcombe and Winburn all favor universal health care, a $15 minimum wage and a paid family and medical leave program for all Vermont workers. And they all support changes to Vermont’s tax code that would collect more revenue from the highest earners in the state.

Each of the candidates is making different pitches to prospective voters, however. You can watch them debate over Zoom on July 21 by clicking here.

Candidates:

Additional coverage:

David Zuckerman Seeks Democratic Nomination for Governor

Bennington Lawyer Argues His Case To Voters In Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

Former Education Secretary Seeks Democratic Nomination For Governor

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

Five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor on Zoom
Credit Screenshot / VPR
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VPR
On Wednesday, July 22, Republican gubernatorial challengers Bernard Peters, top left, Douglas Cavett, top right, Emily Peyton, bottom left, and John Klar, bottom right, faced off with Gov. Phil Scott, center, in a Zoom debate.

Vermont's Republican primary for governor has an eclectic mix of challengers to two-term incumbent Phil Scott.

John Klar is a farmer and lawyer from Brookfield who leans Libertarian. He's also anti-abortion, favors gun rights, and questions the science behind climate change.

Emily Peyton from Putney, who's campaigned before on the leftist Liberty Union ticket, wants to abolish currency.

Debate Round-Up: Republican Candidates Talk Pandemic, Criticize Gov. Scott's Response

Bernard Stevens is a retired state employee from Irasburg who says his main issue is to curb government spending.

Douglas Cavett from Milton is a convicted sex offender who wants to reform the state's prison system.

Watch the five candidates debate over Zoom by clicking here.

Candidates (VPR has sought an interview with Gov. Phil Scott):

Additional coverage:

Eclectic Slate Of GOP Candidates Challenges Gov. Scott For Nomination

From The Frequency: Four Challengers And An Incumbent: The Republican Candidates For Governor

PROGRESSIVE PRIMARY

Two screenshots next to one another, one of a man and one of a woman
Credit Screenshot / Facebook, YouTube
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Facebook, YouTube
While Boots Wardinski, left, and Cris Ericson, right, are running as Progressive gubernatorial candidates in the Aug. 11 primary, but the party is asking members to write-in Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, who's running as a Democrat, instead.

This primary day there will be two candidates on the Progressive Party’s ballot for governor: Boots Wardinski of Newbury, and Cris Ericson of Chester.

But party leadership doesn’t want their members to vote for either one of them, and is instead calling for voters to write in Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, who is running as a Democrat and is the candidate the Progressive Party has endorsed.

Ericson, a perennial candidate since 2002, is running for seven statewide offices this year, including lieutenant governor, auditor, attorney general and treasurer. Her platform includes replacing businesses with state-backed communes and halting the coronavirus pandemic by closing Vermont’s borders to all but residents, with a few exceptions including truck drivers.

Wardinski, also a perennial candidate since 1990, is a member of the Liberty Union Party, and is running on an anti-war platform.

Candidates (VPR has sought interviews with both):

Additional coverage:

Progressive Party Asks For Write-In To Beat Gubernatorial Candidates On Its Ballot

From The Frequency: A Peculiar Progressive Primary Ballot

Lieutenant governor primary candidates

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

A screenshot of the four Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor during a recent debate on Vermont Public Radio.
Credit Screenshot / VPR
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VPR
Candidates Debbie Ingram, top left, Tim Ashe, top right, Brenda Siegel, bottom left and Molly Gray, bottom right, faced off over Zoom in a debate on July 16, moderated by Jane Lindholm and hosted by Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS.

Four candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, including two state senators representing Chittenden County.

Tim Ashe is a Democratic/Progressive senator and the current president pro tempore of the Vermont Senate.

Debbie Ingram is another Chittenden senator, and an ordained United Church of Christ minister.

VPR PBS 2020 Primary Debates: Democratic Candidates For Lieutenant Governor

Sens. Ashe and Ingram both point to their experience and legislative accomplishments on issues from the economy to racial justice. They face two candidates who have not held statewide elected office.

Molly Gray is an assistant attorney general who has racked up an impressive list of endorsements including former governors Shumlin and Kunin, as well as leading the pack in fundraising.

Brenda Siegel is an activist and former gubernatorial candidate who pledges to bring previously marginalized voices into the decision making process.

See these candidates debate over Zoom by clicking here.

Candidates:

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor
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VPR
Candidates Dana Colson Jr., top left, Scott Milne, center, Jim Hogue, Dwayne Tucker, bottom left and Meg Hansen, bottom right, faced off over Zoom on July 14 in a debate moderated by Bob Kinzel and hosted by Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS.

None of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor has previously held statewide elected office.

Scott Milne, president of Milne Travel, may be the best-known to many Vermonters. He came within a hair's-breadth of upsetting Democratic incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2014.

Dana Colson Jr. is the owner of a welding supplies company who strongly disagrees with Gov. Phil Scott's actions on gun control.

VPR PBS 2020 Primary Debates: Republican Candidates For Lieutenant Governor

Meg Hansen is former executive director of the health care think tank “Vermonters for Health Care Freedom" and has focused much of her past activism on opposing the all-payer health care model.

Jim Hogue is an actor and farmer who is unfamiliar with some of the basic duties of the lieutenant governor like managing senate debates, and says he would use the position to advocate for a state public bank.

And Dwayne Tucker is a contractor and civil engineer who is also running for state senate, saying "my heart is really focused on the Washington County Senate seat."

See these candidates debate over Zoom by clicking here.

Candidates:

PROGRESSIVE PRIMARY

Candidates (VPR has sought an interview with Cris Ericson):

  • Cris Ericson, Chester

U.S. House primary candidates

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

Incumbent Peter Welch is seeking the Democratic nomination for Vermont’s sole Congressional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ralph “Carcajou” Corbo, also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, is running too.  Welch has served as Vermont’s representative to the U.S. House since 2006.

Candidates:

  • Ralph “Carcajou” Corbo, Wallingford
  • Peter Welch, Norwich

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

Four candidates are on the Republican ballot for Vermont's sole seat in the U.S. House. They are: Miriam Berry, Jimmy Rodriguez, Justin Tuthill and Anya Tynio.

Pomfret resident Justin Tuthill lived previously in Poland and seeks to implement polices he witnessed while living abroad, in the United States, especially those of paid family leave and sick leave. He does not support defunding police organizations, but instead supports an approach to policing modeled after European cities, whereby unarmed city guards would act as first responders who de-escalate altercations.

Anya Tynio’s campaign was endorsed by Vermont Right to Life, and she has said that she believes it is each citizen’s duty to protect the vulnerable, be it someone with developmental disabilities, or an unborn child. The Charleston resident supports stricter immigration laws and has strong ties to Vermont’s farm and agricultural communities.

Jimmy Rodriguez is a Montpelier resident, and his campaign website does not list a specific platform apart from "fight for the needs of your community and earn your respect."

Miriam Berry, a full-time nurse from Essex, ran a self-funded campaign, and though her name appears on the Republican ballot this August, she wrote VPR to say she has dropped out of the race.

Candidates (VPR has sought interviews with all):

Other statewide primaries

Other statewide office primaries up for the vote on Aug. 11 include state treasurer, secretary of state, auditor of accounts and attorney general.

STATE TREASURER

  • Democratic primary: Beth Pearce, Barre City
  • Republican primary: Carolyn Whitney Branagan, Georgia
  • Progressive primary: Cris Ericson, Chester

SECRETARY OF STATE

  • Democratic Primary: Jim Condos, Montpelier
  • Republican Primary: H. Brooke Paige, Washington
  • Progressive Primary: Cris Ericson, Chester

AUDITOR OF ACCOUNTS

  • Democratic Primary: Doug Hoffer, Burlington; Linda Joy Sullivan, Dorset
  • Progressive Primary: Cris Ericson, Chester

ATTORNEY GENERAL

  • Democratic Primary: T.J. Donovan, South Burlington
  • Republican Primary: H. Brooke Paige, Washington; Emily Peyton, Putney
  • Progressive Primary: Cris Ericson, Chester

Local elections to watch

CHITTENDEN COUNTY SENATE

A collage of thirteen headshots
Credit Photos courtesy of candidates
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The 13 Democratic candidates running in the primary for Chittenden County Senate seats.

Some 13 candidates for state senate are competing in Vermont's Democratic primary in Chittenden County, with nine newcomers eyeing vacancies left when two incumbents decided not to run.

More from VPR: 13 Democrats Compete For Senate Seats In Chittenden County

While the candidates will still have to run in the November general election, Chittenden County, which has six senators, has only sent Democrats to the Vermont Senate since 2016.

On the Republican side this year, there are two candidates in the August primary. Republican voters can pick up to six candidates for state senate.

ADDISON COUNTY HIGH BAILIFF

Meanwhile, in Addison County: Three candidates are competing in a hotly contested race for high bailiff.

More from VPR: Three Candidates Face Off In Addison County High Bailiff Race

This guide was digitally produced by Abagael Giles.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with tweet us @vprnet.

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Vermont’s primary election is on Aug. 11, so VPR is reaching out to candidates in contested races for governor, lieutenant governor and the U.S. House to find out why they're seeking to serve, and where they stand on the issues of the day. Find our full coverage here.

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